Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 10, 2003

Small-town pharmacists hope that Congress remembers them

By Lynda Jensen

Small-town pharmacies are bracing for the outcome of decisions made by the federal government regarding Medicare, which is currently being debated at the nation's capitol.

Both Ken Kremer of Winsted and John Ringold of Howard Lake wondered what the result will mean for their pharmacies when the government decides what to do with how to cover medications.

Contrary to common belief, pharmacies do not clear excessive profits from drugs. "Ninety eight percent of (the money) goes somewhere else," Ringold said.

"Our margins are very tight," Kremer agreed.

Insurance companies are exempt from anti trust laws, and many of the pharmacy reimbursements or payments for services are pre-determined, Kremer said.

There's no doubt that prescription drug costs are too high, Kremer said. "It's a situation that's out of control and needs to be addressed," he said.

The government should deal with the entire issue of pricing drugs, not just one part of it ­ which may end up hurting small pharmacies, Kremer said.

In fact, most of Europe and Canada have fixed drug pricing systems, which makes him wonder if the United States is subsidizing drug costs for other countries, Kremer said.

"Why are drugs so much more here?" Kremer asked. He would like the government to figure out the true problem, thorny as it may be, instead of sending customers to Canada for cheaper drugs.

Politicians such as Senator Mark Dayton, who organizes busses to buy drugs in Canada, are not dealing with the issue at hand, Kremer said.

"Is that really hurting the pharmaceutical companies?" Kremer asked. "I don't think so."

"Why not make it so that people can continue to buy locally?" Kremer asked.

Ringold indicated that the legislation may hit rural communities particularly hard. This may be hard to impress upon congressmen who are far from the source, he commented.

Small rural drug stores depend on who is walking through the door to survive, Ringold said.

Prescription drugs account for about 20 percent of the health care dollar, Kremer commented.

Both pharmacists urged residents to call congressmen and ask why local pharmacies have to pay more for prescription drugs than Canadian pharmacies, and why the price is so different between the two countries.

Residents may contact congressmen listed below. Senators apply to the entire state, but representatives are in three different districts in the readership area.

Readers are asked to look at the italic information at the end of the legislator contact to see which district applies to them.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R)

2550 University Ave. W., Suite 100N

St. Paul, MN 55114,

Phone: (651) 645-0323 or (202) 224-5641. E-mail: opinion@coleman.senate.gov.

Sen. Mark Dayton (D)

SR 346 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Phone: (202) 224-3244 (Washington), (612) 727-5220 (Minnesota)

E-mail: go to http://dayton.senate.gov/webform.html and follow directions.

Rep. Mark Kennedy (R)

US Rep. District 6

1111 Hwy. 25 N., Suite 204

Buffalo, MN 55313

Phone: (763) 684-1600.

E-mail: mark.kennedy@mail.house.gov.

District 6 includes a huge chunk of area that is northwest of the Twin Cities. At its southern end, it includes the townships of Cokato, Middleville, Marysville, Stockholm, Victor and Woodland; and the cities of Howard Lake, Waverly, Montrose, and Cokato.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D)

U.S. Rep. District 7

2159 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Phone: (202) 225-2165

E-mail: go to http://collinpeterson.house.gov/email.htm and follow directions.

District 7 encompasses a huge chunk of area that is west of the Twin Cities. At its eastern end, it includes voters in the townships of Winsted, Bergen, Hale and Rich Valley; and the cities of Winsted and Lester Prairie.

Rep. John Kline (R)

U.S. Rep. District 2

1429 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Phone: 202-225-2271

Email: www.house.gov/writerep/ (follow prompts).

Kline's area encompasses voters inside a large chunk of area west of the Twin cities, including Carver County.

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