I left commencement in 2016 with strong desires for a lot of good things: more schooling, more opportunities to teach, and more involvement in my local church. It says a lot about Bethlehem College & Seminary that at the conclusion of one degree I was jealous to start another. What I was not considering– new theology degree in hand– was a role in reshaping the healthcare industry.
When you think about healthcare, you probably picture doctor’s offices, hospitals, and stethoscopes. White jackets and teal scrubs. But when you stop and really look at it, apart from inpatient procedures, very little actual healing takes place inside these buildings. The physician sees you and troubleshoots the issue, but rarely can the problem be fixed right then and there. Usually, you’ll leave with instructions on more of this, less of that, and a prescription to assist in the recovery. Most health care takes place during our everyday lives.
The problem for far too many, then, is not with getting to the doctor’s office. The problem instead is that they can’t afford their medication when they get home. Millions of Americans, with prescriptions in hand, willingly choose to forego the medicine they need because the cost of retail pharmacy is far too high. To change this, we have to reroute the path a drug takes from manufacturer to consumer.
Myself and other church members who run Good Shepherd Pharmacy have set our sights on becoming the first non-profit, self-sustaining charity pharmacy in the United States. Our goal is to be a light of good deeds shining in a world of darkness and greed that ends in glory to our Father. Although he was not obligated by our condition, Christ saved us from the poverty of unrighteousness, blessing those in sickness and in need at great cost to himself. We hope that through an abundance of good deeds to the powerless we can magnify this one Great Act of righteousness that brought salvation to many. Thus far God has blessed this heart. In 2016, we gave away over $1.6 million in prescriptions. We are currently on pace to dispense over $3.3 million in 2017 alone.
So how do we do it? Non-profit and charity pharmacies do exist, and we certainly are not the first. Good Shepherd, however, is breaking ground in how medicine is distributed to the poor in two significant ways. First, we are unique in that our operating costs are supported by membership fees as opposed to traditional funding models. We are then free from the uncertain lifeblood of grants/donations and bureaucratic hospital oversight, though we’ll gladly accept any uncertain lifeblood when offered. This gives us a realistic shot at becoming self-sustaining, self-governing, and reproducible.
Second, we do not bill to prescription insurance. When a retail pharmacy and an insurance company agree to cover and sell a drug, the agreement usually includes a much price higher to the consumer. But by not involving insurance companies and their agreements, we are allowed to dispense the medicine at the cost a pharmacy pays for it. For example, Plavix is usually sold for $50 to $150 at a retail pharmacy. With us, it’s about $2.50. Since our operating budget is covered by the membership fees, drugs have zero markup. Moreover, anything below $4, like Plavix, is dispensed to our members for free.
That’s our formula and, by God’s grace, it works. The average person saves $215 per month with some monthly savings stretching into the thousands. No more skipping medicine to buy groceries. No more purchasing just a few pills at a time. No more returning to the emergency room because you couldn’t take your medication. We’ve cried with quite a few people, but thankfully, these have been tears of relief and hope restored.
Of all the good things I considered after graduation in 2016, I now regret the absence of one category: the joy of good works. Thankfully, the Lord’s decrees for good in my life are not limited to my awareness of categories. Yes, be Ephesians 2 theological; but any good discourse analysis sees the Action-Purpose relationship waiting for you at the end in verse 10.
“Learn to do good;
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.”
Derek McLarty, BTh ’16
- For our students as they head into summers of ministry, rest, further study and mission trips.
- For our faculty and board members on writing sabbaticals.
- For Good Shepherd Pharmacy:
– That we would reach sustainability sooner than scheduled (scheduled for Feb 2018).
– The Lord would grant me wisdom as I lead this company in the areas of proclamation and care for its members and employees
Derek McLarty is a graduate of Bethlehem College (B. of Theology, ‘16), the Chief Strategy Officer at Good Shepherd Pharmacy, pastoral intern at Grace Church Memphis, and a marketing consultant for Reformed Roasters coffee. He and his wife, Tara, have hopes to plant a church in Ecuador with other members of GC Memphis by 2022.