Letter: Why we need compassionate, knowledgeable pharmacists like Mike

Located on the corner of Rice and Como, Capitol Pharmacy served the Frogtown neighborhood for over 30 years. Capitol was small and homey place, with a multi-lingual, friendly and knowledgeable staff. Owner Mike Underwood knew patients by name, and took the time to make sure that each person really understood their medications, no matter their language, health literacy, or type of insurance. As a physician, I could easily call and see which medication would be affordable for my patients.

Capitol Pharmacy is one of a number of small, local St. Paul pharmacies forced to close their doors due to decreased reimbursement payments. Those serving patients on Medicare and Medicaid, the health plans that cover the most vulnerable members of local community, including the elderly, poor, and disabled, are most affected. A pharmacy may make only around 25 cents per Medicaid prescription, not enough to keep the doors open. Despite a busy practice, Mike has been going without to cover the cost of medications and staff wages.

Without the patience, careful explanations, and language support from Capitol Pharmacy, I worry my patients will not be able to take their medications appropriately, leading to worsening disease, hospital stays, and increased health care costs.

While insurance companies reap the benefits of contracts with big pharma, small establishments struggle to keep up. As we look to reform our healthcare and pharmaceutical system, it is important to consider who can help keep our communities healthy — and as a provider caring for the underserved and the elderly, I want a compassionate, knowledgeable local pharmacist like Mike.

Thank you, Capitol Pharmacy.

Katie Freeman, St. Paul


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