CITY’S POOR & VULNERABLE STILL GETTING A RAW DEAL


[from October 2003 issue]

PRIOR EDITORIALS ARCHIVED HERE


It seems that hardly a week goes by that there isn’t yet another distressing policy decision revelation that, no matter what the spin placed on it by the Williams administration, will ensure another raw deal for our city’s citizens who are least able to prevail against the machinery of insensitive government.

Of course, Exhibit A has, for quite some time now, been the absolutely wrongheaded decision to shut down DC General Hospital, promising great cost savings and vastly improved service for the poor by farming out the delivery of health services to some kind of dubious “Alliance” entity and the hospital function to the out-of-the-way and marginally proficient (and, as it turned out, financially weak) Southeast General.

Not only has the city not saved money (as predicted by At-large Councilmember David Catania and so many of his colleagues and constituents in the health services delivery field), we taxpayers have had to pour good money after bad in an effort to bail out Southeast General and attempt to jerry-rig a working system (that really is not working in the least, but simply sucks out more money).

But, on top of the money issue, where things really have gone totally down the drain for the city’s low-income citizens is the diminution of the availability and range of health care previously being provided. For example, the very much praised Adams Morgan clinic that served such a substantial portion of the Latino population, and was regarded by residents in that neighborhood as well as Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights as a godsend, was shut down. The alternative offered, which was far outside of those neighborhoods, was no substitute, especially since the health care professionals who had been serving those patients were dispersed.

Now we learn that the city, in an apparent effort to exercise tighter control over Medicaid spending (we have no complaint with this intent), has decided that all Medicaid patients receiving HIV/AIDS prescriptions will be required to obtain them from a group of independent pharmacies that operate under the umbrella of a co-operative of some kind. Pharmacies that are part of corporate “chains” will no longer be eligible to serve those persons.

The trouble with this blanket approach is that it will exclude from the Medicaid program the only two pharmacies in the city, outside of that at the Whitman-Walker Clinic, specifically established to serve the HIV/AIDS community--Statscript, which is a division of Chronimed, and ProCare, which is a division of CVS. Both are located in Dupont East and serve a major HIV/AIDS population throughout Wards 1 and 2. To our knowledge, none of the for-profit pharmacies that will be authorized to dispense to HIV/AIDS Medicaid patients are located anywhere near to where those persons reside.

Further, these pharmacies are not staffed with persons who have the training and background as is the case with Statscript and ProCare. Those are pharmacies where patients not only can and do receive highly competent and knowledgeable specialized drug counseling, but also are treated with extraordinary dignity--something that is not always the case for either HIV/AIDS patients or Medicaid patients.

Because this city contract exceeds $1 million, the city council must approve. We urge that the council approve the contract only if the city’s officials responsible for designing the thing amend it to include these two, unusually unique pharmacies--specifically, Statscript and ProCare.

It seems that hardly a week goes by that there isn’t yet another distressing policy decision revelation that, no matter what the spin placed on it by the Williams administration, will ensure another raw deal for our city’s citizens who are least able to prevail against the machinery of insensitive government.

Of course, Exhibit A has, for quite some time now, been the absolutely wrongheaded decision to shut down DC General Hospital, promising great cost savings and vastly improved service for the poor by farming out the delivery of health services to some kind of dubious “Alliance” entity and the hospital function to the out-of-the-way and marginally proficient (and, as it turned out, financially weak) Southeast General.

Not only has the city not saved money (as predicted by At-large Councilmember David Catania and so many of his colleagues and constituents in the health services delivery field), we taxpayers have had to pour good money after bad in an effort to bail out Southeast General and attempt to jerry-rig a working system (that really is not working in the least, but simply sucks out more money).

But, on top of the money issue, where things really have gone totally down the drain for the city’s low-income citizens is the diminution of the availability and range of health care previously being provided. For example, the very much praised Adams Morgan clinic that served such a substantial portion of the Latino population, and was regarded by residents in that neighborhood as well as Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights as a godsend, was shut down. The alternative offered, which was far outside of those neighborhoods, was no substitute, especially since the health care professionals who had been serving those patients were dispersed.

Now we learn that the city, in an apparent effort to exercise tighter control over Medicaid spending (we have no complaint with this intent), has decided that all Medicaid patients receiving HIV/AIDS prescriptions will be required to obtain them from a group of independent pharmacies that operate under the umbrella of a co-operative of some kind. Pharmacies that are part of corporate “chains” will no longer be eligible to serve those persons.

The trouble with this blanket approach is that it will exclude from the Medicaid program the only two pharmacies in the city, outside of that at the Whitman-Walker Clinic, specifically established to serve the HIV/AIDS community--Statscript, which is a division of Chronimed, and ProCare, which is a division of CVS. Both are located in Dupont East and serve a major HIV/AIDS population throughout Wards 1 and 2. To our knowledge, none of the for-profit pharmacies that will be authorized to dispense to HIV/AIDS Medicaid patients are located anywhere near to where those persons reside.

Further, these pharmacies are not staffed with persons who have the training and background as is the case with Statscript and ProCare. Those are pharmacies where patients not only can and do receive highly competent and knowledgeable specialized drug counseling, but also are treated with extraordinary dignity--something that is not always the case for either HIV/AIDS patients or Medicaid patients.

Because this city contract exceeds $1 million, the city council must approve. We urge that the council approve the contract only if the city’s officials responsible for designing the thing amend it to include these two, unusually unique pharmacies--specifically, Statscript and ProCare.