YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Hundreds of pharmacies across Ohio will start turning people away in less than two weeks because of major changes to the state Medicaid system.
Local lawmakers and frustrated patients alike weighed in on the grief these recent changes are expected to cause.
“It’s just ridiculous. I have a lot of prescriptions that’ll just make a hardship for me,” said patient Keith Clark.
Clark and thousands of Medicaid patients across Ohio will have to go to a new pharmacy to get their prescriptions filled.
“My pharmacy is one mile away, they want me to go eight miles away,” said Clark.
The changes are for patients who go through the United Healthcare Managed Medicaid Organizations program, the changes only impact United Healthcare patients.
Beginning March 1, at least 800 pharmacies across Ohio will not be able to fill prescriptions under the new network plan.
According to the Ohio Pharmacists Association, the Department of Medicaid doesn’t have any plans to stop the changes United Healthcare is making.
Patients said the move is restrictive, and will make it difficult for those who don’t have access to transportation.
“They sent me a letter indicating from UHC. They are forcing me to choose a different pharmacy and I don’t want to go elsewhere,” said patient Karen Hoover.
In response, United Healthcare sent a statement saying:
“As part of our ongoing efforts to ensure Medicaid beneficiaries have access to quality pharmacies that offer affordable medications, we are making changes to the network. We are working with those individuals who are affected by the change to ensure they receive the medications they need…”
Senior Vice President of Pharmacy Operations for Hometown Pharmacy, Ron McDermott, said UHC’s claim the changes will help with affordable prescriptions doesn’t add up.
“It doesn’t make any sense. Why would a Medicaid system shove them to a pharmacy that’s going to charge them more or the Medicaid more than what we’d charge them?” said McDermott.
There is a silver lining for patients, though. If they wish to change to another Managed Medicaid Provider, they can do so through the end of April.
State Senator Joe Schiavoni said his office has been working to find a solution to help patients however, he’s not sure if a solution will come soon enough.
“There has to be some way that everybody can get together on this and I’m not sure if there is,” said Schiavoni.
For now, patients across the state are working to find new pharmacies, or make changes with their insurance company.
“We want to get our voice heard,” said Hoover.
Petitions across the state are being signed to show patient support behind the 800-plus pharmacies across Ohio.