Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Navy Hospital Rethinks Drugs Cut; Retirees Meet at Facility to Protest Proposed Inventory Reduction to Lower Expenses

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Navy Hospital Rethinks Drugs Cut; Retirees Meet at Facility to Protest Proposed Inventory Reduction to Lower Expenses

Article excerpt

Byline: GREGORY PIATT, The Times-Union

Peppered with phone calls and e-mails from military retirees in 24 hours, Jacksonville Naval Hospital officials suspended their decision to cut in half the inventory of drugs it stocks in its pharmacy.

That reversal came more than two hours before a Friday town hall meeting at the hospital, where more than 200 military retirees and their spouses attended.

The announcement by the hospital's executive officer, Cmdr. Chuck Benninger, brought cheers from the retirees -- some in wheelchairs, others in military unit or ship hats and at least one who served at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

"I think we got their attention and they did the right thing," said Roger LaBrie of Middleburg, wearing a Veterans of Foreign Wars hat.

"Cutting any medical care is at the top of the list for any veteran," said retired Army Col. Ed Taylor of St. Augustine. "It's a hot-button issue."

Many active-duty personnel, military retirees and their families learned about the reduction of the pharmacy's inventory or formulary to about 400 drugs in Thursday's Times-Union. Hospital officials said they were reducing the drug inventory to cut the hospital's operating budget by $3 million.

Benninger said hospital officials would re-evaluate how best to address rising costs. He said the hospital has eliminated non-essential travel from its budget, slashed $1 million from contracts, cut equipment purchases, slowed hiring and streamlined several procedures.

Wreney Colvin, a Navy retiree from Jacksonville and Red Cross volunteer at the hospital, thought the reversal was outstanding.

"A lot of people come here from all over Florida and can't afford medicines," Colvin said. "If they cut the medicines, I don't know what they would have done."

Active-duty, military retirees and their families have no co-pay on drugs through the hospital's pharmacy. The decision would have forced some of those who couldn't get their drugs through the hospital's pharmacy to face co-pays of $3, $9 and possibly more depending on the drug, said Navy retiree Chuck Rosciam, who earlier called the reduction in the pharmacy inventory an attack on military retirees and families. …

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