The health center can now dispense medications at significant discounts to its uninsured patients and help cover co-pays for its insured patients.
When Niel Scala had to leave his job in law enforcement due to medical reasons, he lost his health insurance.
Scala said, however, that after he learned about the Heart of Florida Health Center, which serves Marion County residents regardless of insurance, he has been able to keep his health concerns in check.
On Tuesday, Scala was at the agency’s Central location, which is one of eight it operates, at 1025 SW First Ave., Ocala, taking advantage of the center’s latest offering as he filled his prescriptions.
“It makes it a lot easier instead of going here and there filling your prescriptions,” Scala said.
The Central location pharmacy opened less than two weeks ago and joined the center’s first pharmacy location, which is at the Florida Department of Health in Marion County at 1801 SE 32nd Ave., Ocala. The first location opened in November to little fanfare as, according to officials with Heart of Florida, they wanted to work out any kinks and get signed up with the major insurance companies.
In addition to convenience, the pharmacies also will offer significantly discounted medications through the federal 340B Drug Pricing Program. The discounts will allow uninsured patients to get medications much cheaper.
Insured patients can qualify for co-payment assistance on certain medications. Prescriptions are available to Heart of Florida Health Center patients only.
“This has been a long time coming. We always knew the Heart of Florida needed the pharmacy,” said Jamie Ulmer, CEO of the non-profit organization.
The hope is that more patients will take advantage of the pharmacy.
“A family can come, see the pediatrician, the dentist, the doctor and before they leave they can pick up their pharmacy medications. Not only are they benefiting from one-stop shopping but they are really benefiting from the better prices we are offering our patients,” Ulmer said.
As an example, Ulmer said, an uninsured patient who takes a particular drug for diabetes control may pay about 99 percent less at the Heart of Florida pharmacy than at a retail pharmacy.
Those with insurance can also benefit from the group’s co-pay assistance program. It can be particularly helpful if their medications come with big co- pays, such as certain hepatitis drugs. Those co-pays can run more than $1,000. Because insurance pays a fixed amount, usually much more than the discounted medication costs the Heart of Florida, the organization can use the insurance reimbursement to offset the co-pay and help cover the cost of other medications for the uninsured.
“This can be huge. Our diabetic patients could really see some improved outcomes if everyone knows they can now get their medications for free,” said Chandra Evans, director of pharmacy services for the Heart of Florida Health Center.
Not long ago, the organization started seeing Marion County Jail inmates with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, through a collaboration with Ocala Community Care, which provides medical, dental and mental health services to inmates. The jail must treat HIV-infected inmates while in custody. But now, they pay about 40 percent less for the medications through the Heart of Florida pharmacy, Ulmer said.
There are between 10 to 15 HIV-positive inmates in the jail every month. Ulmer said they can also transition those inmates into patients when they leave the jail. He said they hope to eventually expand the service to inmates who take psychotropic drugs for certain mental illnesses or disorders.
The Heart of Florida Health Center is open to all residents of Marion County. The agency accepts insurance and the uninsured pay on a sliding scale depending on income. Learn more at www.myhfhc.org.
Medina, C. E. (2019, March 19). Heart of Florida opens discount pharmacy in Ocala. Ocala Star Banner. Retrieved June 10, 2019, from https://www.ocala.com/news/20190319/heart-of-florida-opens-discount-pharmacy-in-ocala