This is a very frustrating time for Walgreens. Up until recently, they have had contracts with Express Scripts prescriptions to keep costs for customers low. The negotiations for 2012 fell through, and Walgreens is no longer part of Express Scripts’ pharmacy provider network as of Jan. 1, 2012.
Express Scripts’ actions are causing disruption with no significant benefit to patients or their health plan. Patients covered by an Express Scripts plan now find themselves not only having to change their pharmacists, but many are having to drive farther to get prescriptions filled at pharmacies with less convenient hours for their hectic schedules.
And patients are not seeing their costs go down in exchange for the increased hassle they’re being subject to. It’s all pain with no gain.
Many patients under an Express Scripts plan have used Walgreens pharmacies for years and have a personal relationship with their Walgreens pharmacist. In an effort to minimize their disruption and inconvenience, Walgreens unveiled a comprehensive national effort to make this transition as smooth as possible and is doing all it can to help patients continue to use Walgreens when possible, or take care of them as they are forced to leave Walgreens in order to use their in-network coverage.
Among the steps Walgreen is taking to minimize the disruption is offering a special discount on annual membership for its Prescription Savings Club. An individual can join during a special January promotion for only $5, or $10 for a family membership, and receive savings on more than 8,000 brand name and all generic medications. More than 400 generics are available with a three-month supply for less than $1 a week. Regular annual membership is $20 for an individual and $35 for a family.
Express Scripts continues to gain financially from its position as a middleman as its profits have grown at a rate more than two times the average of peers in health care. Historically brokers in a marketplace take a percentage of the cost of a product for putting the buyer and seller in contact. In Express Scripts’ case, the broker is growing profits faster than the provider of the service. When the middleman is more profitable than the providers, the relationship is out of balance.
Employers value having Walgreens as a pharmacy option for their employees, but Express Scripts wants to take that choice away.
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