The Crusader Newspaper Group

State Representative Ford pushes for greater access to pharmacy services

State Representative LaShawn K. Ford (D-Chicago) held a virtual press conference on February 4 to announce his introduction of legislation to ensure greater access to pharmacy services for Illinois Medicaid recipients.

As of December 1, 2020, Aetna Better Health of Illinois (ABHIL) Medicaid recipients must use CVS pharmacies or a limited number of smaller independent pharmacies. Using Walgreens pharmacies is generally no longer an option for these recipients. Much of the West and South sides of Chicago are pharmacy deserts, with no CVS pharmacies in the majority Black West Side communities of Humboldt Park, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, North Lawndale or Austin.

On December 28, 2020, Ford called on Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to ensure greater access to pharmacy services for Illinois Medicaid recipients who have ABHIL as their managed care organization. On December 30, 2020, Ford received a letter from HFS stating that they have found that “all of Cook County… met 100 percent of the [pharmacy] access requirements for Illinois Medicaid customers.” Further detailed investigation by pharmacy desert expert Dr. Dima Qato, health equity expert Dr. David Ansell and student Starmesha Prater has revealed that there are indeed major pharmacy access issues on the West Side.

“Limiting pharmacy options for Medicaid recipients affects people not only on the West and South sides of Chicago, but people throughout Illinois,” said Ford. “During this COVID-19 pandemic when people need their medications and the coronavirus vaccine at pharmacies, and when people are dying daily due to opioid overdoses, it makes no sense to limit access to pharmacies.

“I’ve talked to representatives from CVS, Aetna, and HFS to correct this injustice and this direct attack on the poor. I’ve worked with providers and advocates on a legislative fix to end this bad business practice, leading to the legislation that I am introducing,” said Ford. “Our press conference will discuss the findings of our pharmacy desert experts and the legislation.”

80 New COVID-19 Vaccination Locations Added

On the same day as Ford’s announcement, 80 new locations have been added to the list of COVID-19 vaccination locations open to the public for a current total of 390 locations. The new sites include 78 additional Walgreens locations for a total of 170 stores across the state, as well as two Illinois National Guard-supported locations in Cook and St. Clair counties. Jewel-Osco now has 92 vaccination locations and Mariano’s has six. However, a check from the Crusader showed that the Mariano’s in Bronzeville revealed there were no  available time slots at that location on February 9. Residents were encouraged to try another location or check back later.

Two additional Illinois National Guard-assisted sites opened on February 4 at the East Side Health District in St. Clair County and Triton College in Cook County. There are now 12 state-supported COVID-19 vaccination locations.


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