How much should you pay to get drugs behind bars?
County set to change pharmacy services at jail, House of Correction

©2002 MilwaukeePress.Net
(July 22, 2002)
The Milwaukee County Board on Thursday will decide whether to flush the expensive Wisconsin pharmacy that provides medicine to prisoners, and instead contract with a Maryland firm that is cheaper, scored highest on a “blind” evaluation of three bidders, was recommended July 11 by the Judiciary, Safety and General Services Committee but just got off probation in Colorado for a variety of licensing violations.

Y&S Pharmacy Services of Baltimore was recommended by an evaluation committee comprised of employees of the County Board, Health Related Programs, Sheriff’s Department, Department of Administration, House of Correction, and draft copies of the contract were submitted to Risk Management, Corporation Counsel and DBE for approval.

The result showed Roeschen’s Health Care Corp, of Racine, which has been providing services under a 1996 contract that expired this year, was the least attractive bidder, charging the most for drugs while placing last in the County-defined categories of leadership, references, proposal, transition plan and automated ordering.

On the other hand, Y&S had the top score in price, leadership, references, transition plan and automated ordering.

The third bidder, Diamond Pharmacy Services, had the best proposal and was second in price, leadership, references, transition plan and automated ordering.

According to Michael Kalonek, program administrator for Health and Mental Health Services, the minimum savings would be $500,000 the first year if Y&S replaced Roeschen’s.

Representatives from Roeschen’s appeared before the committee last week to argue that they were a local company and unfairly forced to charge higher prices because state law does not allow them to charge less than they are paid for Title XIX prescriptions. If they charged less, they would lose on the other 70 percent of their business, the company argued. However, they argued, if the county would deny the other bidders, the state would change the law to allow them to lower their prices.

Speaking in support of Roeschen’s was Assemblyman G. Spencer Coggs, who said legislators were prepared to pass a measure to make Wisconsin firms competitive.

“You want us to take a hit?” asked Supervisor Lee Holloway.

But then Roeschen’s presented a newsletter from the Colorado State Board of Pharmacy, dated August 2000, reporting Y&S was placed on two-year probation.

Caught off guard, Sheriff David Clarke’s office contacted Colorado authorities and obtained a fax saying the probation was for minor violations and was no longer in force.

The department also argued that even if Y&S was rejected, Roechen’s still was last. The sheriff also stated that while Roeschen’s may lose jobs, the new firm would create new ones.

On July 18, the County Board’s Finance Committee approved the recommendation, which goes to the full board for approval Thursday, July 25.