Costco to sell AT&T phones and service

BY Doug Desjardins

ISSAQUAH, Wash. Costco has agreed to sell AT&T phones and service plans at more than 370 outlets.

Costco will sell AT&T handsets from manufacturers like Samsung and Nokia and allow customers to activate their service in stores. Wireless Advocates, a Seattle-based company that is Costco’s retail wireless marketing partner, will handle in-store sales and support.


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Clinic operators define future success strategies

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON Drug Store News co-sponsored in October the first annual Retail Clinic Vendor Fair.—Looking to bring clinic operators and suppliers together for one-on-one power sessions and to discuss the importance—and needs—of nurse practitioners working in such settings, the Convenient Care Association and

The event, which was held here at Hotel Palomar Oct. 15 to 17, marked the second time that Drug Store News has teamed up with CCA. The first co-sponsored event, held in Philadelphia in March, was a Retail Health Clinic Summit.

During the vendor fair, Web Golinkin, chief executive officer of clinic operator RediClinic, officially stepped in as CCA president. He succeeds Hal Rosenbluth, chairman of Take Care Health Systems and senior strategy consultant of health care for Walgreens, who served as the CCA’s first president.

In his address on the year ahead, Golinkin said the next 12 months will be critical, in part, because healthcare reform will be in the spotlight of the upcoming presidential campaign. Not to mention the fact that the convenient care industry has faced some resistance from members of the medical community.

Going forward, Golinkin said, it will be important for clinic operators to continue to deliver and document the ability to deliver quality care; consistently communicate the benefits to key constituents and continue to collaborate with others in the healthcare system.

“CCA is a work in progress but with Hal’s help we have come a long way in a short time,” Golinkin said. Also on the agenda was an educational program featuring the introduction of proprietary research results on the retail clinic industry, presented by Rob Eder, editor-in-chief of Drug Store News and Retail Clinician magazine.

Among the research findings: nurse practitioners are seeking new information that will help them counsel patients, including more NP-focused CME. In fact, when asked what types of information or resources would help them in their job, the response was overwhelming and very clear: CME. Also high up on the list was disease state information, OTC product updates and new generic drug introductions.

The study also found that nurse practitioners overwhelmingly are satisfied with the opportunity to deliver health care in this new patient care environment. In fact, 74 percent described themselves as either extremely satisfied or very satisfied with their current jobs.

The nationwide survey was conducted online between August and September. Results are based on the responses of about 150 nurse practitioners.

The event featured a panel discussion with several CCA members. Topics covered included legislative process and regulations, technology, staffing and quality assurance.

“Let’s be honest. If a nurse practitioner is good enough to save the life of America’s finest in Iraq, they certainly can handle pink eye in Peoria,” Rosenbluth said during his address to attendees. “The fact is there are simply not enough providers and we need more doctors and nurses of all skill sets and specialties. The system is broken and needs to be fixed and integrated.”


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Democratic hopefuls scramble amid calls for healthcare reform

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON —Don’t look now, but the 2008 presidential election is just a year away. And with health care one of the hottest issues of the primary campaign, Democratic and Republican hopefuls are scrambling to project a coherent vision for the future of health care that voters can live with.

Surveys in the year running up to the primaries consistently show that fixing the unwieldy, disconnected and dauntingly expensive health- care system is a critical concern to Americans. “Voters have identified health care as the leading domestic issue for the government to address and for the presidential candidates to discuss in the 2008 campaign,” noted the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation in a recent report. “In particular, voters would like to hear the candidates’ positions on reducing the cost of health care and health insurance and expanding coverage to the 47 million uninsured Americans.”

In general, pollsters this year are tapping into a restless mood and anxiety among voters on the issue of health care and universal coverage. Many Americans, it seems, are ready for a change in how health care is provided and paid for. And many appear far more willing to embrace some form of government-sponsored healthcare plan in 2007 than they did in the early years of the Clinton administration, when Hillary Rodham Clinton’s attempts to forge a consensus on government-sponsored health care coverage collapsed because of lack of support.

Nothing illustrates that point better than a report issued last month on a Interactive poll of likely voters, conducted in September. “Most U.S. adults believe the No. 1 healthcare issue the presidential candidates should address is providing coverage for the uninsured 30 percent,” noted a report on the findings from the Wall Street Journal Online’s Health Industry Edition. “With 2 million more people uninsured this year than last year, this is the top healthcare issue that both Democrats [37 percent] and Independents [30 percent] would like to see addressed.”

Despite growing support for universal coverage, Americans also remain deeply divided about who pays for it. A recent poll of seniors from The Feldman Group found that “Medicare remains the third rail of politics,” with Medicare recipients polled by Feldman overwhelming opposed to a proposal in Congress to fund the SCHIP children’s health insurance program by cutting Medicare funding.

For retail pharmacy, the stakes in next year’s election are critical. “With federal and state governments making nearly half of all healthcare payments in the United States and in an industry literally shaped by government rules and regulations, the biggest mistake we can make is to communicate too little,” noted National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson.

To that end, pharmacy leaders also need to pay heed to each candidate’s plan for reforming health care. Here’s a shorthand look at how each of the major Democratic aspirants to the office of president stack up:

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, still deemed the front runner despite difficulties in a recent primary debate, wants to extend coverage to all Americans by requiring them to obtain health insurance and providing tax breaks to help them cope with premiums. Her plan also would require large employers to contribute toward health insurance costs, offer tax subsidies to small businesses to help them defray worker coverage costs and mandate that insurers couldn’t deny coverage over pre-existing conditions.

“Insurance companies won’t be able to deny you coverage or drop you because their computer model says you’re not worth it,” she told voters. “They will have to offer and renew coverage to anyone who applies and pays their premium.”

Clinton estimates her plan would cost $110 billion a year. To pay for it, she’d eliminate the Bush tax cuts for high-income Americans. She’d also focus more on preventive health and “best practices” in medicine to lower costs and target “wasteful” administrative and managed-care costs. Importantly, Clinton also would allow Medicare Part D to negotiate for lower drug prices, open up importation of cheaper drugs and generics, and focus on the costs of prescription drugs in the United States versus other countries.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois also promotes universal healthcare coverage and preventive health through government-funded screenings for diabetes, asthma and other conditions. A big proponent of the cost-saving benefits of health information technology, Obama sees health care improving through “partnerships among federal and state governments, employers, providers and individuals.” He’d also focus on prescription drug errors and administrative inefficiencies, and indicates that as president, he’d put a spotlight on drug prices and high insurance premiums.

“It’s time to let the drug and insurance industries know that while they’ll get a seat at the table, they don’t get to buy every chair,” he said. “Pharmaceutical companies should profit when their research and development results in a groundbreaking new drug. But some companies are exploiting Americans by dramatically overcharging U.S. consumers.”

In response, Obama would allow drug importation, promote more generic utilization in government drug programs and repeal the ban on direct government negotiation with drug companies in Medicare Part D.

To guarantee universal coverage, Obama would establish a new public health plan, available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP nor have access to insurance through their employers. He also proposes a National Health Insurance Exchange “to help Americans and businesses that want to purchase private health insurance directly.”

Obama also wants to boost federal support for disease-management programs. “Over 75 percent of total healthcare dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic conditions,” he noted. “Many patients with chronic diseases benefit greatly from disease-management programs, which help patients get the care they need.”

To that end, Obama would require health plans participating in any government program to offer disease-management programs.

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards has unveiled a detailed health plan that calls for universal coverage through a public-private partnership of government and tax-incentivized employers who would be required to provide coverage or financial help to their employees. He’d also create new tax credits to help Americans buy insurance, expand Medicaid and SCHIP, and create regional “Health Care Markets” to help “every American share the bargaining power to purchase an affordable…health plan” and boost consumer choice.

Edwards also would require insurers to spend at least 85 percent of their premiums on patient care, and promote Health IT to “help doctors avoid duplicate tests and conflicting prescriptions.” He’d also work to “eliminate loopholes and trade obstacles that block generic drugs, and let the FDA approve biogenerics, saving up to $43 billion over 10 years.” Edwards also wants to restrict direct-to-consumer advertising by drug makers, and would allow drug importation and drug-price negotiation in Medicare.


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