WELLSBORO — Tuesday shoppers at Weis Markets in Wellsboro were greeted by an atypical sight shortly before noon.
Between the flowers and baked goods, a group lingered and talked without a grocery cart in sight. Those passing by asked those gathered, “What’s going on?”
Rick Seipp, vice president of pharmacy for Weis Markets, leaned down to explain it is a visit by U.S. Congressman Fred Keller to talk about lowering the cost of prescriptions.
“That would be nice,” said a woman, pushing her cart onward.
It was Keller’s second stop that morning; the first was at UPMC Soldiers + Sailors in Wellsboro.
The purpose of the two visits, said Keller, was to gather information, learn about issues affecting each and hearing possible solutions from those involved.
“I want to say that the biggest thing about (Pennsylvania Congressional District) 12 is the thoughtful, caring, resourceful people,” said Keller. “They work very hard and they care about their community. That’s a story we don’t tell often enough, but that’s who we are in PA 12 and that message needs to get out, that we care about our community.”
Keller praised Soldiers + Sailors and how it fulfills its role as a critical access hospital in rural Pennsylvania. While the organization does a good job, there are some things to work on, specifically: professional training and recruitment of physicians, nurses and mental health professionals.
“Medical appointments is another variant we can look at to try and see what policies or initiatives we can work on together to try and get people to and from their appointments,” said Keller.
Seipp, said the corporation had two messages for the congressman: talking about patient access and services offered and to continue to fight for lower co-pays, also known as direct and indirect remuneration reform. Pharmacies nationwide are reaching out to congressman and senators to discuss the impact that pharmaceutical co-pay has on Weis customers and legislators’ constituents.
“Really, they’re having to do their choices sometimes between food and medicine and we don’t want that to happen,” said Seipp.
Keller acknowledged pricing and accessibility are concerns, as well as spreading the word about the availability of some vaccines at the pharmacy without a prescription, such as flu and shingles vaccinations.
“Andrew (Westbrook), the pharmacist here, summed it up well: We want to make sure the people get the care they need and get the medicine they need,” Keller said. “For them, it’s making sure that people are doing well. It’s not about the money aspect of it. … It’s about helping his friends and neighbors that live in this community.”