Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Go Ask Alice

I was told long ago the secret to a successful agreement is for both sides in a negotiation to walk away believing they each received something they wanted and gave up something they didn't especially care about. If that's that case, I'm not sure what to make of how we here in The Land of Steady Habits are creating a balanced budget that's equitable for all. To my knowledge no one has repealed the law of unintended consequences so I’m concerned that a little discussed aspect of the “budget saving” labor accord between Governor Malloy and the State Employees Unions will remain unnoticed until it’s too late.

Undoubtedly, the negotiations were hard and detailed, involving compromises and complexities that may not yet have been fully explained (or understood, especially by me) but here’s an aspect that almsot escaped my notice. In order to create savings intended to lower the overall cost of taxpayer funded health care for current and retired state employees, their prescriptions will (actually MUST) be filled by mail order pharmacies. On its surface, a laudable attempt at cost-containment and yet….aside from lots of talk about how much mail order saves, there’s a paucity of hard data to back up this claim but that’s not all.

I don’t know how many independent pharmacies there are in Connecticut-I have trouble keeping track of the ones that are in Norwich-but should the agreement remain as is, it could well precipitate the disappearance of every single one of those pharmacies, as each, undoubtedly, has a percentage of its customers who are state employees about to lose an option and a choice. Those state employees will not be able to refill prescriptions at their local pharmacy anymore and when those customers migrate to mail order, our local neighborhood pharmacies across the state will be in financial trouble.

When those pharmacies close, as many must, all of the (other) businesses from whom they purchase goods and services, to include the municipalities which provide water, power and sewage, will see declines in their businesses, like the ripples in a pond. And those pharmacies will, when closed, be adding their (former) employees to the current ranks of the unemployed while also adversely impacting both a city’s grand list (and revenue stream) as well as its gross domestic product and its overall community quality of life.

Again, I applaud the intent of the negotiated agreement while doubting the scale of savings it claims. Moreover what I find disquieting is the very real probability of unintended consequences from which Connecticut, already battered and bloodied from too many years of magic book keeping and feckless and reckless fiscal mismanagement, may never recover.

It’s not too late for each of us to contact our elected officials in Hartford to include Senator Edith Prague and Representatives Chris Coutu and Melissa Olson and urge them to examine the agreement for themselves and then do what they can, should and, perhaps, must, to keep a vibrant portion of our local cities and towns and integral part of many of our neighborhoods, the local drug store, economically viable and visible.
-bill kenny

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