TennCare changes could mean drastic changes for pharmacies

Some pharmacists and TennCare recipients say changes to the program's drug policy is a prescription for disaster.

Pharmacist Kent Stoneking spends a lot of time with his customers, but come August 1st, he expects some of them will require even more attention!

"I don't think any of us have any idea just how overwhelming monday is going to be," Stoneking said.

Because Monday, TennCare stops paying for prescriptions for nearly 300,000 people. Another 400,000, like Mary Larimore, will have their drug benefits reduced.

"I mean how can you cut somebody to 5 prescriptions, okay choose which one you're going to live with," Larimore said.

Now Larimore's working with her pharmacist to come up with the cheapest combinations of the diabetes drugs she needs, since she'll soon pay for most of them herself.

Stoneking says his patients will have to make tough choices.

"There are patients who are going to probably wind up without medication and that's unfortunate because when it comes to it at the end of the day and it's a decision between purchasing groceries or purchasing medication, a lot of the medications will not be filled," Stoneking said.

The state says it consulted with pharmacists about the new plan, but many question whether the changes hurt more than they help.

"There's always the concern that the program might not have been well thought out, that patients might not have access to the pharmacists or the pharmacies that they choose,"said Paula Hinson, past president of the Tennessee Pharmacy Association.

The state is offering safety net to some TennCare enrollees, discount drug cards and access to a mail order program for free generic drugs.

Changes even affect those who aren't on TennCare because local pharmacists say you'll have to wait in longer lines over the next several weeks as they try to find solutions for their customers on TennCare.