BATON ROUGE, La. (KPEL News) - A new pharmaceutical contract being pushed by the Edwards administration may force state employees and retirees to find a new pharmacy, starting Monday.

The contract, which takes effect on January 1, will go forward after a legal challenge from independent pharmacists, who say the new contract will financially impact independent pharmacies around the state. According to them, as well as Democrats and Republicans in the legislation, Attorney General Jeff Landry, and others, the new contract will cause them to lose their state employees/retirees as clients.

The reason for the concern is what they are saying are inadequate reimbursement rates in the new contract. That contract, worth $2 billion, is between the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and CVS Caremark.

According to OGB, users will not have to use a CVS pharmacy, but any pharmacy that is opted into the Caremark network. You can check to see if your pharmacy is in that network by going to the Caremark site and logging in or creating an account.

However, critics say the new reimbursement rates will force smaller, independent pharmacies to opt-out, and will create "pharmacy deserts" in rural parts of the state, where bigger, chain pharmacies are rarely found.

Landry's office intervened in the case, offering a warning to what it could mean for users.

State Senator Heather Cloud of District 28 has been urging Louisiana citizens to get their prescriptions filled before the new year in case the change affects their local pharmacy.

With the judge’s decision coming just days before the new year, over 200,000 state employees/retirees will have just three days to get in contact with their pharmacies to see if their pharmacy will be opting out of the contract or not. For the pharmacies that are opting out, their state-employee customers will likely have to find a new big-box pharmacy to fill their prescriptions and get their vaccines from.

District 28 State Senator Heather Cloud is recommending state employees fill their prescriptions by Jan. 1 to avoid any troubles come the beginning of the new year.

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