| 3 min read | by Doug Marrin |
Dexter will have its own pharmacy once again. Jensen’s Community Pharmacy out of Saline will soon be opening a second location in the Dexter Crossing Plaza next to Chela’s in the former Hallmark space.
I had the chance to sit down with Steve over a cup of tea at Joe & Rosie’s to learn more about him and his plans for doing business in Dexter.
“I live in Dexter and this was naturally my first choice for a location when starting my own pharmacy,” says owner and pharmacist Steve Jensen. “However, Dexter Pharmacy had been here for 40 years, and I wouldn’t want to open up and compete against another independent that has the same values as I do.”
Graduating from the University of Michigan School of Pharmacy in 2003, Steve moved to Dexter and worked for a pharmacy chain calling it his “tour of duty.” But after having reached his fill with the impersonal and bureaucratic world of chain business, he struck out on his own as an independent pharmacist in 2011.
“It was scary at first – building a business out of nothing,” he said. “There were some days when literally nobody would come through the doors. Those days made me question my decision to strike out on my own.”
But Jensen’s Community Pharmacy survived through to the break-even point. Eventually, Steve was able to hire a part-time pharmacist which allowed him to get out and visit physicians and veterinarians. The results were almost immediate and the business grew quickly. There is now another full-time pharmacist and four technicians.
Now here’s a unique thing: In addition to providing medicine for humans, Steve has also created somewhat of a niche for his pharmacy by providing meds to our four-legged friends. He has a lab (chemical, not canine) in place to mix up the compounds and put them into a pill or capsule form. The medicine can also be put into treat form to ease the stress of medication. Veterinarian meds will be available through the Dexter location and like all prescriptions can be picked up at the store, delivered to your home, or mailed out. Whatever is easiest for you.
On the Dexter Pharmacy closing
Dexter was surprised and saddened last August when the Dexter Pharmacy suddenly closed their doors after 40 years of business.
“When I learned of their closing, I was pretty surprised just like everybody else,” Steve said. “It seemed like it should have been a healthy business. But that’s how it is with pharmaceuticals, you just never really know.”
One of the big uncertainties for an independent pharmacy is how the money works. Steve echoed a lot of what former owner of Dexter Pharmacy, Marni Schmidt, had to say about how the money comes in.
“Some of the things in the pharmacy world are very non-transparent in terms of where all the money is and who is taking out their fees along the way,” Steve said. “A pharmacy could be in a very poor contract and/or at the mercy of benefits managers.”
When asked if he was worried about the same forces that drove Dexter Pharmacy out of business doing the same to him, Steve replied, “Oh you definitely have to be afraid of them. Things could change tomorrow, and that’s why you have to try and be quick to adapt.”
Steve went on to explain how Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBMs) have the power to determine how much money a pharmacy gets reimbursed for a prescription. “I can submit an expensive prescription and they can determine to pay only a few cents,” he explains. “The PBMs control the whole ballgame and are extracting billions of dollars out of the healthcare system by really doing nothing except making those decisions.”
Pharmacy Benefits Managers are the middlemen contracted by insurance companies to determine and manage pharmacy reimbursements for prescriptions they have filled.
One strategy pharmacies, especially independent pharmacies are using is to find products that don’t need insurance reimbursement. “CBD oil has been like the Holy Grail for independents,” Steve explains. “We can actually help a person, which is a big reason we do what we do in the first place, without worrying about getting only pennies on the dollar for it.”
“Our healthcare system, in general, is moving towards ‘value-based’ instead of ‘fee-for-service,’” he continued. “With ’Fee-for-service’, for example, the doctor does an MRI and gets paid for doing an MRI. Less thought is given to if the MRI was absolutely necessary and added value to the patient’s healthcare. Physicians are being pressed more and more for the outcomes they prescribe.”
He also commented on how this is worrisome for chain pharmacies that are set up to “dispense a thousand scripts a day with minimal staff.” A shift to the quality of healthcare over the quantity would cut into their high volume, low-service business model.
“Medicare has been on the forefront demanding bang for the buck in healthcare,” said Steve.
What, When, & Where
Construction is completed and Steve expects their certificate of occupancy to come by the end of this week. After that, there is a host of pharmaceutical licenses and certificates to be granted before he can begin filling scripts. “I’m hoping to open the doors by mid-April,” he said.
There will be a couple of familiar faces in Jensen’s Community Pharmacy in Dexter. Steve was able to hire the former head pharmacist from Dexter Pharmacy as well as one of the technicians.
There will be no drive-thru, but Jensen’s will see your drive-thru and raise you home delivery. “For people with mobility issues that may make it easier to stay in their car, we won’t even require them to get in their car to get their meds,” he said.
And if the gossip around town and social media comments are any indications, Steve and his staff will have plenty of business to keep themselves busy. While we certainly miss the Dexter Pharmacy, it seems a lot of folks are happy to be getting our own place once again.