By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE — As a pharmacist in the small town of Russell, Pat Hilger said he got into the business to help people, not process paperwork.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Hilger said his pharmacy is drowning in new government guidelines that ultimately leave him with an uncertain financial future.
“It’s so cumbersome, it’s virtually impossible for any pharmacy anywhere to stay up on the regulations, and every day there’s new regulations that somebody writes that we don’t even know about,” Hilger said.
Hilger was just one of the constituents to meet with U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp and his staff members during the congressman’s recent tour of Kansas’ first district. Hilger was also featured in a video interview released by Huelskamp’s office Tuesday, in which the pharmacist cuts straight through the politics and lays it out flat: Obamacare is hurting his business, Gregwire Drug Store, which has served citizens of Russell for more than a century.
For one, he told Kansas Watchdog, his employee insurance premiums are set to skyrocket from around $2,000 a month to more than $5,000 next year. It’s one of the negative ramifications of the new health care law he feels is being wholly ignored by national media outlets. Further hampering his business is the fact that Obamacare cuts into his bottom line by reducing provider reimbursements.
While grocery stores and retailers can simply increase prices to offset the rise in health care costs, Hilger said small pharmacies like his don’t have that luxury.
“My reimbursement has dropped every year for years,” Hilger said. “I get paid less and less as the time goes on, and I have no control over that, because (the price is) being dictated to me by somebody somewhere else.”
Hilger controls the price on roughly 10 percent of his inventory.
Another consequence of the bureaucratic and regulatory expansion is that minor errors can cause big problems for small pharmacies like Gregwire. Hilger cited a recent $200 Medicare claim that was rejected because of a typo.
“Here we are, about 16 months later, and I cannot get that fixed,” Hilger said. “They will not accept the fact that there was a typographical error. I’ve proven it to them a number of times. They just simply refuse to pay that claim. They’re calling it fraudulent because I have a typo.”
“This is the kind of thing that our government is doing to small business providers like me,” he added.
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