Reimbursement cuts don't scare pharmacies

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- As the owner of a small pharmacy in North Palm Beach, Fla., Barry Paraizo believes that if an independent pharmacy wants to survive, embracing HME products is one way to do it -- even with the shrinking margins on many key HME items.
"I may be naive, but I think the [HME] reimbursement is good," said Paraizo. "The margin seems to be adequate."
With big chain stores and even grocers now offering pharmacies and selling items like cold remedies, toothpaste and cosmetics, independent pharmacies have had to think of other ways to draw customers in and keep them coming back.
"The market is definitely changing," said Bill Popomaronis, vice president of long term and home health care pharmacy services with the National Community Pharmacists Association. "Independent pharmacies and HME dealers are looking for ways to compete with the big chains. They have to change. It's like a portfolio in the stock market -- sometimes you have to reposition yourself."
There are about 24,000 independent pharmacies in the United States, and more than half of them embrace HME to some extent, said Popomaronis. And, in spite of recent cuts by Medicare and other payers, the NCPA still encourages pharmacists to give the HME business a good look.
"The big chains may sell things like syringes and other items, but when you start getting into areas like wound care, foot exams, and the products to go with those services, big chains don't provide those," he said. "There are so many other areas where independent pharmacies can provide customer service."
"At NCPA, we advocate items that can add value to the customer," he added. "The trend is people who want to remain healthy and independent, so we need to cater to them."