Small, independently owned pharmacies play a broad role in health care delivery in rural areas and provide essential clinical services such as blood pressure monitoring, immunizations, and diabetes counseling. Unfortunately, many of these pharmacies are at risk of closure due to the adverse effects of Medicare Part D negotiated networks on their financial viability.
Researchers from the UI College of Public Health’s Center for Rural Policy Analysis (RUPRI) recently analyzed the rural populations served by these pharmacies, as they are most at-risk to lose access to some of these essential clinical services. Understanding the characteristics of this vulnerable population may be useful for proposing policy changes.
According to the research team, in 2014 more than 2.7 million people lived in 663 rural communities served by a sole independently owned pharmacy, and more than one-quarter of these residents (27.9 percent) were living below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. More than 19 percent of them were above age 65, while more than 35 percent of residents were dependent on public insurance or were uninsured.
For a majority of these rural communities, the next nearest pharmacy is more than 10 miles away, which creates access problems for these populations since they are also those most likely to experience barriers to travel (i.e., low-income, publicly insured, and aged 65 years and older). Consequently, loss of a sole, independent pharmacy may deprive many of these rural community members of access to essential clinical and pharmacy services, even if they can continue receiving medications through other means such as mail order or delivery from another location.
Read the full RUPRI policy brief.