Drug Co-Pay Dissaray

They're being told to find out if Medicaid patients can afford a new co-pay for prescriptions, but pharmacists don't think it's fair to make them do the state's dirty work.

Pharmacists know a lot of very personal health information about their customers, now they're being asked to find out about their finances too. A new state policy that started Jan. 1 requires pharmacists to find out whether Medicaid recipients can afford a co-pay of up to $7.50 toward their prescriptions.

Michael Jackson with the Florida Pharmacists Association says the rule puts pharmacists in a bad spot.

“They don't have access to a patient's financial records, and they don't know what's in their checking account and they don't understand or know what to ask a patient to determine whether or not they can afford to pay,” Jackson explains.

Plus the program is voluntary, so one customer might pay while the next guy won't. After only two days, the state put the co-pay program on hold so it could get the word out to everyone about how it's supposed to work.

We talked to several pharmacists about the new rule, but no one wanted to go on camera because they're still confused about whether they're supposed to collect the money or not. In fact even legislators seem caught off guard by the rule they themselves voted for as part of the state budget. Senator Ron Klein says they need to fix it.

“I don't think it's fair to the Medicaid patients to depend on the pharmacists nor is it fair to the pharmacist to have to be responsible for this. The law should be clear. Either we're going to require it or we're not going to require it,” adds Sen. Klein.

The co-pay program is supposed to save the state $27 million. But, it seems unlikely people will pay if they don't have to, and pharmacists fear they'll be the ones left with the headaches.

The State Agency for Health Care Administration says it will be up to the Medicaid recipient to decide whether he or she can afford the co-pay, not the pharmacist. The program is expected to go back into effect by the middle of next month.