ARDMORE, OK -- Dozens of local pharmacies across Oklahoma are concerned that a plan to force state workers to get their medication through the mail could put them out of business.
State lawmakers say the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board has been looking for ways to save the state money. The plan they are looking to enact would require all state and education employees to order long-term medications by mail, but some lawmakers say it could end up costing the state much more in the end.
Bill Moore is part-owner of Henry Roberts Express Pharmacy. He worries that the state insurance board's push to make all state and education employees order their drugs by mail could put more than 80 locally owned pharmacies out of business, including his.
"Essentially what's going to happen is these pharmacies that are going to be forced to close down, you know, as far as the benefits for employees, the salaries they pay, the money they put back into their local communities is going to be gone. So it's going to have a tremendous effect," Moore said.
Medco, the mail-order company, is based in Texas and they say the plan could save Oklahoma more than $8 million dollars; however, State Senator Frank Simpson says not only would this plan jeopardize small town pharmacies, but it could take a huge toll on the state's economy.
"I'm uncomfortable with taking upwards of $70 millions dollars of money out of the state. That is a big piece of revenue being taken out of the Oklahoma economy," Senator Simpson said.
That is why the Pharmacy Providers of Oklahoma came up with a counter proposal that they say could save the state more than $22 million dollars compared to the plan OSEEGIB is pushing for.
Simpson says small towns would be affected the most if they lose their pharmacy due to the mail order switch.
"If they have problems or questions about their drugs they know who they can go talk to. With a mail order company they would not have that convenience," Senator Simpson said.
Our calls to OSEEGIB, the group looking towards the mail order proposal, could not be reached for comment, but Moore says this is a battle he will continue to fight.
"I would like for us to be included in this proposal. If they keep the mail order so be it. My first choice would be that the mail order would go away all together," Moore said.
Senator Simpson says he has confidence the insurance board will make the right decision between the two proposals, but says if the insurance board does decide to go with Medco's plan then state lawmakers may choose to step in.