May 15, 2024

New east side pharmacy aims to accept all Medicaid plans and slash drug prices

Jane Pauley Community Health Center. - Elizabeth Gabriel/Side Effects Public Media

Jane Pauley Community Health Center.

Elizabeth Gabriel/Side Effects Public Media

A new pharmacy on the east side of Indianapolis will accept all Medicaid plans and offer prescription drugs at a discount.

Twenty-five percent of United States residents live in a pharmacy desert. Research shows that Black and brown residents are much more likely to live in areas with fewer pharmacies.

The Jean Pauley Community Health Center, a non-profit health care provider that serves Central Indiana, is trying to put a dent in that number. 

The JPCHC facility, located on 16th Street, has been in the Community Heights neighborhood for eight years. During that time, it has expanded into a full-service medical provider that offers primary care, behavioral health services, dental check-ups and a pharmacy. 

“[The JPCHC Pharmacy] is about building relationships, it’s about building a care team and it’s about making sure we’re helping all the folks who are here on the east side who are living in a pharmacy desert,” State Senator Andrea Hunley said.

Aaron Knapp, director of pharmacy operations for JPCHC, said this is part of a trend in medical clinics opening their own pharmacies in order to reduce prescription drug prices for patients. Big box retail pharmacies, like CVS and Walgreens, may not take all Medicaid and Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) insurance plans because they don’t receive as much money from those providers.

As a Federally Qualified Health Center, JPCHC is eligible for the federal 340B drug pricing program, which allows pharmacies to purchase drugs at a reduced rate while still receiving the same reimbursement as if they purchased the drug at the retail price. Then, organizations like the JPCHC Pharmacy can pass those savings onto patients by lowering the cost of their prescriptions.

The 340B program savings rates are only applicable to JPCHC patients. But Knapp said they don’t want to turn others away. So, the pharmacy is open to everyone who needs to fill a prescription, even though JPCHC Pharmacy might fill additional prescriptions at a loss to the company, he said. 

The pharmacy, which has been open since Jan. 15, filled over 500 prescriptions in the first month, according to Hunley. Since then, the JPCHC Pharmacy has filled over 700 prescriptions each month. 

JPCHC, which served over 26,000 patients last year, is also expanding to provide patients with additional services. 

FQHCs typically focus on primary care, which makes it difficult for patients to find a specialist if they need one, partially due to the health care shortage. It can be even more challenging if someone is uninsured or their insurance provider has low reimbursement rates. Once they do, Knapp said some patients have been told it would be over a year before they would be seen. 

Now, JPCHC has contracted with AndHealth, which provides specialty care, such as neurology and dermatology, in Indiana, Ohio and Massachusetts. Knapp projects JPCHC patients will have an average wait time of roughly a week to see a specialist, potentially a month at the longest. 

“It’s refreshing as a pharmacist to have that kind of work environment because access to other people on the care team makes a big difference and really helps us maximize the care that people are getting,” Knapp said. 

Contact WFYI’s health reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org

 

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