Magazine article Drug Topics

Arizona Figures Finger-Imaging Can Catch Prescrption Fraud

Magazine article Drug Topics

Arizona Figures Finger-Imaging Can Catch Prescrption Fraud

Article excerpt

COMMUNITY PRACTICE

Just when it seemed life behind the counter couldn't get any more frantic, Arizona pharmacy folks are facing the prospect of having to scan welfare recipients' fingers if proposed legislation to cut Medicaid prescription fraud is adopted.

The basic idea behind House Bill 2435 is to prevent fraud by electronically scanning a Medicaid beneficiary's finger and storing the images in a central database. When a script is presented at the pharmacy, the person's finger would be scanned again for instant comparison with the print on file. If there's no match, the pharmacy can still dispense the prescription on a temporary basis. Anyone who picks up Rxs for the recipient will also have to be finger-- imaged. Recipients who are pregnant, under age 18, or over age 65 are exempt. The finger-imaging devices would be provided free of charge to pharmacies that participate in Arizona Health Cost Containment Systems (AHCCS), the state's version of Medicaid.

Many states have already adopted finger-imaging as a requirement for welfare benefits. But Arizona is apparently the first jurisdiction to try to include prescription drug benefits in such a finger-imaging program. The bill provides for a $2.6 million pilot study to run through 2004 with annual reports to the legislature on fraud detected and dollars saved.

How the system will impact pharmacy operations is the biggest concern of the Arizona Retailers Association, which represents chain drugstores. "My understanding is that the pharmacies are to be the source of data collection, not the enforcers, but we're afraid that finger-- imaging will slow down pharmacy services for AHCCS patients and the general public," said Michelle Ahlman, executive director. "We are a nation of people using more and more medications. In Arizona, we have a huge senior population, and we're in the middle of a national pharmacist shortage. We have participated in the [legislative] process to try to get to the point where retail is impacted as little as possible."

A similar bill introduced last year had to be modified before the Arizona Pharmacy Association agreed to go along with the plan, said Kathy Boyle, executive director. At the association's insistence, the proposed legislation now requires finger-- scanning in clinics, hospitals, and physician offices, as well as in pharmacies. …

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