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Paging Dr. Drug Store: Retailers expand healthcare access

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The retailization of health care, as it’s called on the cover of the Aug. 27 issue of Drug Store News, could turn out to be one of the most significant developments in the history of retail and health care alike.

(THE NEWS: Walmart takes a shot at expanding healthcare access. For the full story, click here.)

Even in recent memory, health care usually meant setting up an appointment at the doctor’s office, waiting — sometimes for days, depending on the doctor’s availability — and then getting a prescription and taking it to the pharmacy. Now, the retail pharmacy and retail clinic are becoming destinations for health care as well, particularly some primary care services traditionally reserved for physician offices, such as immunizations and physicals, offered by pharmacists themselves, nurses and even in-store physicians.

As a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers noted in response to the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, "The growth of high-deductible health plans underscores consumers’ cost sensitivity and puts increased pressure on insurers for the most cost-effective healthcare options, such as retail clinics, e-visits and mobile health, which provide convenient primary care services."

All of this, together with the greatly increased number of patients that the healthcare-reform law and the Supreme Court decision have created, spells a magic word: accessibility. That’s good news for patients, and it’s especially good news for retailers as they are set to become increasingly important destinations for healthcare services.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below.

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Bloomberg: Supervalu reportedly seeking bid for entire business

BY Antoinette Alexander

MINNEAPOLIS — As several suitors eye individual parts of the Supervalu business, Bloomberg reported that Supervalu is seeking buyers to bid for the entire business.

The news sparked a rise in Supervalu shares on Friday. As of press time, shares of Supervalu were up more than 9% to $2.32.

A representative for Supervalu had declined to comment, but people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg that the company is looking to find one purchaser for its 11 regional grocery chains that operate under such banners as Jewel-Osco, Shoppers, Albertsons and Acme. Supervalu operates more than 800 in-store pharmacies, primarily under the Osco, Sav-on and local banner names.

However, many speculate that selling Supervalu as a whole will be very difficult, Bloomberg reported.

Bloomberg reported that Cerberus Capital Management is eyeing a possible deal involving the Albertsons division. Meanwhile, Ahold NV is reportedly interested in the Shoppers unit.

As reported by Drug Store News in July, Supervalu has hired Goldman Sachs and Greenhill & Co. to find a buyer.

Click here to read the entire Bloomberg article.

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Walgreens weeks away from entering the loyalty program market with Balance Rewards

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Details of Walgreens’ new loyalty card — Balance Rewards — that’s debuting next month were revealed in a New York Times report published Friday.

Leading that effort is Graham Atkinson, who joined Walgreens in 2011 from his position of president United Airlines Mileage Plus.

The card makes its official debut Sept. 16, though Walgreens will be encouraging first-adopters to sign on earlier in September for a chance to win 10 million rewards points, the report noted.

Shoppers across the pharmacy and front end will be able to accrue points. But the loyalty program will also reward healthy behaviors by granting points to participants of Walk with Walgreens, for example. Loyalty card members will be able to cash in 5,000 points for $5 to use in store or online. The point-reward system is accelerated as more points are accrued — 40,000 points will earn $50, for example.

For the full report, click here.

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