In an effort to close the state deficit, Florida’s state legislature approved a plan to move 3 million Medicaid beneficiaries into managed care. The transition began on July 1, 2012. Many pharmacists are concerned that the transition to managed care will mean cutting services to patients and lower reimbursements for providers.

Pharmacist N. Lois Adams, President and CEO of the HHCS Health Group of Companies summarized many of the concerns that pharmacists have over the managed care transition in Florida. A big concern is that the state will allow for-profit pharmacy benefit management (PBM) companies to make their profits at the expense of both patients and providers. They’ll cut reimbursement rates to providers, force patients to use mail-order services or limit the pharmacies where patients are allowed to fill their prescriptions. Considering that it’s an extremely fragile and sick population consisting of the elderly and disabled, such a move would be disastrous.

In an oped that was posted on Florida Voices, Adams points out that:

“Losing access to pharmacy services can lead to a decline in patients’ health and much higher health costs in the long run. One great driver of health costs is lack of what we call medication adherence, which means the correct use of prescribed medicines. Poor adherence leads to an estimated $100 billion in added hospital costs a year. The logic is simple: People who do not take needed medicine in appropriate dosages are more likely to see their conditions worsen or end up in the hospital.

Patients see their physicians, if they are ill, about once every three to six months, and they may see nurses if they are admitted to a hospital. But they generally see pharmacists more regularly, whenever they get a prescription filled. Pharmacists are health-care professionals who counsel patients regularly.

Most pharmacists hold a doctorate degree in pharmacy and drug management. They play an important role in improving adherence by counseling patients to take their medications correctly, warning against harmful drug interactions and helping chronically ill patients manage multiple medications. A pharmacist’s counseling is certainly more effective than words on a box that is delivered to your doorstep.

Adams leaves us with one final thought: “Properly implemented, Medicaid managed care need not be disastrous for patients and providers. It is up to state leaders to take steps to adopt simple protections and prevent ill-advised cuts that will do lasting harm.” Now that’s a recommendation that everyone should support!

Read more: Pharmacists Can Help Guide Florida’s Future Health Care