Legislation Would Support Local Pharmacies

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

A fellow Western Oklahoma lawmaker filed legislation that would allow assisted living center residents to continue doing their business with local pharmacies without fear of penalty. House Bill 2566 would ban assisted living centers from penalizing residents for using their choice of providers for medical services and supplies.

In 2011, I called for Kingfisher County residents to rally behind local pharmacies after residents of Countrywood Assisted Living and their families were informed the Sequoia Pharmacy, a business that does not provide services to the general public, would be the preferred pharmacy for the center. Countrywood Assisted Living residents could continue to use their current local pharmacists, but only on the condition that they pay an additional $150 on their monthly bill. The change was originally scheduled to take place at the end of 2011, but has been pushed back to June 2012.

There are six local pharmacies in Kingfisher County – four in Kingfisher, one in Hennessey and one in Okarche. Sequoia may be an excellent commercial medical supplies provider, but Kingfisher County pharmacies offer several advantages. Local pharmacies deliver new medicines immediately after receiving and processing an order. Prescriptions can be delivered in less than 20 minutes, while Sequoia delivers from Oklahoma City. Local pharmacies can provide medications and advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while Sequoia would provide late orders on the following day and advice only monthly. Also, Sequoia isn’t regulated by the State Pharmacy Board and inspectors aren’t allowed in the door.

If Meridian Senior Services, the parent company of Countrywood Assisted Living, is allowed to penalize residents for choosing their own pharmacist, the assisted living center residents would not be the only ones affected. For example, families that choose specific home health care companies for tasks such as insulin injections and other in-home care needs would not be able to do so without penalty. Meridian is still offering a choice: their chosen provider or making your own decision, but at a higher cost for choosing what may be better for the specific needs of your loved one. This is wrong. Choice is not a privilege, it is a right.

I will support House Bill 2566 and fight policies that undercut small pharmacists, reduce access to health care and take dollars out of our local economy. This is a growing trend toward the “socialized medicine” approach that consolidates health care services of all kinds down to a few large providers that can be managed by the government, monopolizing insurance companies and drug companies as well. From what constituents and the residents of long-term care facilities tell me, this is not what the people want.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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