Colorado’s rural pharmacies wrestle against big business to remain community cornerstones |

Colorado’s rural pharmacies wrestle against big business to remain community cornerstones

1,230 rural pharmacies have closed since 2003, including 45 in Colorado. Some blame benefit management companies that reimburse for medications at less than they cost to buy.

Ted Billinger Jr. closed his pharmacy in this prairie town on March 13, 2019, as the worst storm on record hit Colorado. He delivered a prescription for a child with the flu and one to the local nursing home, went home, had a heart attack in his backyard and died.

For nearly 66 years, Billinger’s family had run the Wells Pharmacy in this town of 850 near the Kansas border and Ted Jr., 71, was a pillar of the community, as well as the pharmacist.

“When Ted died, we were all sad, very sad,” said Noni Caviness, 50, a long-time customer. “Then we were all in a panic about where we’d get our meds.”

It turned out there would be an answer 44 miles away over the prairie and fields of winter wheat showing just a hint of early spring green, a landscape broken only here and there by a string of telephone poles or a railroad track.

The Cheyenne Wells story is one being retold across rural America. Since 2003, more than 1,230 rural pharmacies have winked out, including at least 45 in Colorado, according to the Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis. Thirty-two of those closures left Colorado towns with no pharmacy.

Read the rest fo the story at The Colorado Sun.

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