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Express Scripts plays down Walgreens impact

Almost 100% of clients now in 'narrow network'

ST. LOUIS — Express Scripts chairman and CEO George Paz on Thursday played down the impact of Walgreens' exit from its pharmacy network.

"Roughly 20% of our book had been in Walgreens stores, and almost all of that was scheduled to move," he said, noting that Express Scripts beefed up its client and member experience teams to handle both the transitioning from Walgreens along with the annual plan changes across Medicare and private providers at the top of each year to the point of overstaffing. "We needed to make sure that every member who calls in, that was looking for a convenient outlet or a way to process their prescriptions, whether it was a movement to mail or to another retailer, that we would make sure we could handle that."

However, without Walgreens, between 98.4% and 98.5% of Express Scripts' business now is in what Paz defined as a narrow network. "At the end of the day, taking out a large retailer like this, in effect speaks to a narrow network. We don't have [Walgreens] in," he said. "Our clients are very supportive," he added, stating that narrower networks "do work."

And just as Walgreens has stated it is moving forward without Express Scripts, so too is Express Scripts moving forward without Walgreens. During the Thursday morning analyst call, Paz suggested that the clinical offerings fielded by Walgreens "hasn't been proven to reduce cost."

Express Scripts reported Wednesday in its full year 2011 review that adjusted claims totaled 751.5 million, down slightly from 2010, and is projecting claims for 2012 to be flat to slightly higher by 2%. The company deferred any further projections until after its merger with Medco, which the company is confident will be concluded in the first half of this year.

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