Thank you for providing this open time. I’ve had the honor to represent the WMUAAUP bargaining unit in the role of President since January, 2019. I’m here today to bring the attention of the BoT to a critical issue that impacts the WMU community.
We have learned that, as of July 1, 2019, WMU has mandated that some prescription drugs accessed through Sindecuse are to be limited to 30-day quantities. The explanation is that Sindecuse Pharmacy (and other pharmacies as well) has been losing money as a result of Blue Cross’s practice of under-reimbursing pharmacies for the ongoing, month-to-month prescriptions that many of us rely upon.
Even the incomplete list of impacted medications we’ve seen demonstrates the disturbing breadth of impact this will have: for example, asthma medications (Advair, Pulmicort, Combivent), depression (Viibryd, Latuda), blood thinners (Eliquis, Entresto, Xarelto), pain (Lyrica), and several ophthalmic and GI/Bladder prescriptions.
The problem is that WMU’s proposed actions are in violation of Article 33.5.1 of the WMU-AAUP Agreement which states that: Prescription drugs will be available at the Sindecuse Health Center pharmacy with specified co-pay levels (e.g., $10, $20, etc.). It further states that “A ninety (90) day supply of maintainable drugs will be available for a 2.25x copay…”
In short, the Sindecuse prescription benefit is one for which the WMU-AAUP successfully negotiated – it is built into our contract – and cannot simply be unilaterally voided or reduced by WMU Administration. We are, then, filing a grievance against WMU.
We have received many concerned emails and calls about WMU’s decision to pass on costs to WMU employees from our bargaining unit, retired faculty, and members of other employee groups. Our health care advocate has also fielded scores of questions and concerns regarding this practice. In fact, through recent communications with WMU employees, we have learned that the practice of a maximum 30-day refill has been underway as early as January, catching folks needing critical drugs off guard and unaware.
Frankly, the additional worry, financial burden, and inconvenience of this decision lies disproportionately on those with chronic diseases who, I think we can all agree, already face undue burdens. As I close my remarks, I would like to read just a few of the powerful statements that provide a glimpse the dramatic impact this move would have on some of our most vulnerable colleagues and community members:
“I will face serious problems with this low blow. I have my family overseas and when I go to visit them, in the summer, I need the 90 days supply.”
“Thank you for calling attention to this. This is a hardship, particularly since I’m disabled and this change means I have to travel more often which is difficult for me.”
“I currently pay $135 for a 90-day supply. Paying this monthly is in effect a $1,000 tax imposed by Western. I hope you are able to resolve the issue. This drug is a must ….no other options. I failed on the alternative product – it made me suicidal.”
“I have a family member who, having already survived the trauma and expense of cancer treatment, now faces the added insult of being reminded of cancer every single month.”
In short, this is a clear contractual violation that also crosses the line with respect to the basic compassion and respect we owe to our most vulnerable colleagues. It must be resolved.