Imagine your employer hired a third party to issue your pay check. Now that third party pays you late, sometimes up to 45 days after you've done the work, all while "your" bills keep adding up. That's what pharmacies say the government's Medicare Part D plan is doing to them. And it's threatening the survival of the family pharmacy.
Eighty-year-old Matra Thomas is a diabetic, her vision is fading and she just can't get around the way she used to, but thanks to Massey Drugs, the medicine she needs is delivered right to her doorstep.
"I couldn't have no better; Massey Drugs is better to me than my own kids with my medicine," said Thomas.
The longtime neighborhood pharmacy delivers prescriptions free of charge to many of its customers. For nearly seven decades the family pharmacy, nestled in the heart of Quincy, has been filling prescriptions. So for the Massey's it's not just work, it's a way of life.
"I'm third generation, started by my grandfather, ran by my father and then by myself" says Terrance Massey, the store's owner.
And just like the old days, Terrance Massey still offers merit-based credit accounts to many long time, low income customers.
"I guess you loose some money along the way, but we have gotten a lot of very loyal customers that want to make sure they pay us on time," says Massey.
He has personal relationships with many customers and will get out of bed before the store opens to get them what they need.
The state's Medicare help line gets plenty of feedback from those who fear losing the community staples.
"While some of the bigger chains may be able to carry some of these folks and not require payment immediately until the records get straightened out, this is much more difficult for a family pharmacy to do" said Anne Swerlick, who works with the helpline.
So unless lawmakers mandate a time limit for pharmacy reimbursements, Massey just isn't sure how much longer "he" can keep customers like Matra Thomas feeling good.
Tomorrow in part three of our special report, "The Family Pharmacy," Congressman Alan Boyd weighs in on the issue and we take a look at where pharmacies go from here.
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