After a year of negotiations Walgreens and Express Scripts have decided to part ways. The negotiations with Express Scripts was unsuccessful, Walgreens’ contract as a member of its pharmacy provider network expired, effective January 1, 2012. As a result, Express Scripts is essentially forcing customers under its plan to go elsewhere to find in-network pharmacies.
And for what? Dropping Walgreens appears to have no major benefit to Express Scripts customers. Prices aren’t changing. In fact, when the cost of traveling to find an in-network pharmacy is factored in, many patients are actually spending more money. Having Walgreens in the network was a convenience to so many patients with Express Scripts plans because they are easily accessible and many are open 24/7. The alternative is to enroll in the Express Scripts mail-order plan, which is not always time-effective.
Who is affected?
All patients with prescription plans through Express Scripts and who also used Walgreens (including Duane Reade pharmacies in the New York City area) as their in-network pharmacy are affected. This also includes American military personnel, as Walgreens outlined in a press release. The military’s TriCare program allowed them to fill prescriptions with convenience at Walgreens. Though Walgreens offered to contract separately to avoid putting military service men and women in the middle, Express Scripts rejected the offer.
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What is happening to customers?
As a result of this dropped contract, more customers will find themselves traveling a further distance to find an in-network pharmacy, an effort that many will surely view in a negative light. Some will find themselves joining the Express Scripts mail-order program; however, this program is not always the most efficient way to fill prescriptions. In both cases, leaving the emergency room in the middle of the night with a prescription to fill immediately could prove to be an arduous task.
The general feeling among customers has been negative. They don’t necessarily agree with Express Scripts’ actions against Walgreens. A Walgreens survey of 823 key decision makers found that 82% of employers would not exclude Walgreens for less than 5% savings. 60% would not exclude them for less than 10% savings. And finally, 21% said they would not exclude Walgreens at all, regardless of savings.
The bottom line: customers want Walgreens. Many patients have been using them for years and have developed personal relationships with the pharmacists who know their medical backgrounds. Uprooting them and asking them to go somewhere else is inconveniencing them. Express Scripts, however, isn’t listening to what its customers want.
What is Walgreens doing to ease the burden?
Walgreens is attempting to ease the burden for those affected by Express Scripts’ decision by offering a special discount on its Prescription Savings Club.
While the regular annual membership costs $20 for an individual and $35 for a family, you can join the Prescription Savings Club at Walgreens right now for $5 as an individual or $10 as a family.
The perks of joining include:
- discounts on your prescriptions
- over 8000 brand name medications and all generic ones
- discounts on flu shots, pet prescriptions, nebulizers, and diabetic supplies
- bonuses when you purchase Walgreens brand products and photo-finishing services