Provider Faces of 340B
Mark Huffmyer, Pharmacist, White House Clinics, Irvine, KY
Irvine, Ky. (pop. 2,400), is the seat of Estill County. The county's poverty rate is 30 percent – double the national rate. Twenty percent of the county's non-elderly population lacks health insurance (versus 12 percent nationally) and 22 percent of those under 65 have a disability (versus 8.5 percent nationally).
“The majority of our patients are on Medicaid and many have disabilities,” says Mark Huffmyer, a pharmacist at White House Clinics – Irvine. “They're hard-working people but it's hard to find jobs in Estill County.”
White House Clinics is a network of eight Federally Qualified Health Centers in east-central Kentucky. Its Irvine location has a family practitioner, pediatrician, dentist, social worker, and the pharmacy where Huffmyer works. As a safety-net healthcare provider, WHC-Irvine qualifies for reduced prices on prescription drugs through the 340B drug discount program. The money it saves through 340B enables it to continue providing accessible, comprehensive, high-quality primary care to Kentuckians most in need.
At its McKee, Ky., location, WHC offers patients without cars transportation for their appointments with specialists. Five WHC locations have free “Coumadin clinics” where patients on anticoagulant medications have their blood closely monitored and their dosages adjusted as necessary. Huffmyer questions whether WHC could continue offering such services for free – or at all – if healthcare providers' 340B savings are curtailed.
“I have been trying to do a lot of medication therapy management with our patients,” Huffmyer says. “I will sit down with them and go over all of their medications with them. Often we will discover some issues that I am able to resolve, such as switching to a cheaper or generic drug – oftentimes utilizing the 340B program – altering a drug regimen to deal with a side effect of a medication, or simply educating the patient on what his medicines are and what they're for. Without the 340B program, I would not have the staff and the time to spend the amount of time with patients as I do.”
340B savings also make it possible for WHC to give uninsured patients their prescriptions at reduced costs, based on a sliding scale. One recent patient, Huffmyer says, came in “very worried and physically upset” about potentially losing prescription drug coverage she had only recently acquired. “I was able to sit down with her and explain all our services,” including free and reduced cost prescriptions made possible by 340B, he says. “I think it gave her some piece of mind. She had options, instead of 'I'm not going to be able to afford my medicine anymore' or 'It's going to be a choice between buying groceries and buying my medicine this month.'”