I-Team: Small pharmacies may be forced to close due to restrictive networks

Posted at 11:28 PM, Jan 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-12 02:18:53-05

Many Medicaid patients in Florida can no longer use the pharmacies they have been going to for years without penalty.

That could mean those mom and pop shops will go out of businesses, and the community would lose the personalized services they provide.
"Well hello Ms. Mary; it's been a long time," pharmacy tech Diana Nichols said.

Nichols knows all of her patients by name.

"And I've nicknamed a few," Nichols said laughing.

For nearly 12 years, it's been part of the family atmosphere at the small Northdale pharmacy where Nichols works.

It's also why Nichols gets emotional knowing they may have to close.

She is seeing more and more patients leave because insurance networks for Medicaid managed care patients are getting more restrictive.

"It's hard," Nichols said with tears in her eyes. "You invest a lot of your time to get to where we're at right now."

Pharmacy owner Leke Alli said he recently lost 25 families to restrictive networks, and his volume of business was double five years ago compared to now.

Alli said he will have to shut his doors for good if the restrictive networks continue.

Manjit Matharu owns two local pharmacies. Matharu said he is losing $25 thousand a month in each of his stores.

"Yeah, if this keeps happening I'm sure we'll have to close our doors." Matharu said.  

The impact is hitting patients too.

"It's been a nightmare," said Jill Rand.

She got a letter recently stating as a patient, she has to go to a big chain store, and the pharmacy she's used for 11 years is no longer in her plan.

"My pharmacy was more than a pharmacy to me, and i miss it, ' Rand said. "I miss it bad."

Rand was caught off guard by the move.

"It really is," Rand said. "It shook me up. I'm surprised at how cold it really is."

Rand had to practically rebuild her back, and her original pharmacist had delivery services and brought her prescriptions to her.

"These big chains don't deliver your medications if you can't get out." Rand said.

Tina Avalos was forced to leave her small pharmacy. Her wait times now are ridiculous.

"My son had surgery, and I went to go pick up my son's medicine," Avalos said. "And they said three hours to fill the script."

Bill Mincy is the national chair for Pharmacy Choice and Access Now.

He said in a survey, 1,300 family pharmacy owners across Florida said they are taking a big financial hit due to the issue.

If given the chance, all 1,300 owners are willing to meet the same terms, conditions and prices as the big chains, MIncy said.

"So we don't see that there will be a difference in price at all," Mincy said. 
"I really would like to be able to help my patients and the community and i wish someone would help us continue," Matharu said.

As for Nichols not only is her job on the line, she can't get prescriptions filled at the pharmacy she's worked at for a dozen years.

"So i have to go to my competition to get my prescriptions." Nichols said. 

Mincy said a bill is being drafted for the upcoming legislative session. Some lawmakers hope to get pharmacy choice to people statewide.
If you have a tip email I-Team Investigator Jarrod Holbrook at You can follow him on Twitter @jarrodholbrook and Facebook.