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El Rio Health Center gets $180,970 in settlement

Citizen Staff Writer



El Rio Community Health Center has received $180,970 of an $800,000 settlement with two pharmaceutical companies in 2008.

The money will pay for the prescriptions of low-income, elderly and disabled patients.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard was at El Rio on Friday to announce the distribution of the money, which will mostly go to statewide community health centers.

“They have a reach that is not matched by anyone else,” Goddard said of such facilities.

The money is being distributed by the Arizona Association of Community Health Centers, of which most health centers in Arizona are members.

An Arizona Supreme Court ruling designated that the money from the settlement be used for indigent patients who had no other way to pay for prescriptions.

El Rio Executive Director Kathy Byrne said patient advocates look first to see if the patient qualifies for Medicaid assistance. If not, the patient may qualify for one of two prescription assistance programs.

The money from the Attorney General’s Office will go to patients who don’t qualify for the other options, Byrne said, adding that about 1,000 El Rio patients could benefit from the program.

One of those patients receiving help is Andrea Arce, 55, a diabetic who is on multiple medications.

Arce said she was signed up for the new assistance Thursday, the first day patient advocates were able to access the money.

MHC Healthcare, formerly Marana Health Center, will receive $61,890 and United Community Health Center in Green Valley will receive $30,553.

Joseph Coatsworth, chief executive of the Arizona Association of Community Health Centers, said the association applied for the money so that each health center did not have to do it themselves, or have to compete against one another for a share of the available funds.

Coatsworth said all the money will go toward prescriptions, not for administrative costs.

The 2008 settlements were with Caremark and Express Scripts. In the settlement against Caremark, Arizona received $1 million, of which $659,341 was to be set aside for indigent patients. Caremark was accused of dispensing the drug Ranitidine in capsule instead of tablet form, which Medicaid said increased the reimbursement rate.

In the second settlement against Express Scripts, Arizona received $250,735; $185,735 of that was to go to indigent patients. Express Scripts was accused of encouraging physicians to switch patients to drugs that cost the physician less, but would cost the patient more, creating a higher profit margin for the company.

El Rio Health Center gets $180,970 in settlement with drug makers

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