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Reports: Wash. liquor prices appear to rise after privatization

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Some people in Washington state may be having "buyer’s remorse" over the privatization of liquor sales there, which took effect last week, according to published reports.

The Seattle Times reported Wednesday that — according to an "informal, unscientific" reader survey — liquor prices for 13-of-the-20 most popular brands had increased, and 90-of-170 prices reported were higher than in the old state-owned liquor stores, compared with 82 that were lower. The newspaper reported that the findings were "challenging the basic idea that competition leads to lower prices."

In November, voters in Washington passed a referendum, Initiative 1183, to convert Washington from a "control state" — in which liquor sales were restricted to state-owned stores — to a "license state," in which any retailer with a minimum amount of floor space could obtain a license to sell liquor. The referendum received heavy sponsorship from Costco Wholesale and other retailers, and the Seattle Times reported that more than 1,600 retailers, including supermarkets and retail pharmacies, had applied for licenses. Most states are license states, but a handful — such as Utah and Pennsylvania — remain control states.

One possible explanation for the price increase, according to the newspaper, was the 17% fee on retailers and the 10% fee on distributors, the latter of which will decrease to 5% after two years. Taxes — including a 20.5% spirits sales tax and a $3.77 liter tax — that had been included on price tags at the liquor stores but not at private retailers, were another possible factor.

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Sentiment about in-store, online, mobile shopping varies, Nielsen finds

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Consumers’ preference to shop in stores, online or via mobile can depend on such factors as reliability, convenience and safety, according to recent Nielsen research.

Online purchasing was rated the overall favorite by 59% of respondents surveyed and also was considered easiest and most convenient way to shop (both 68%). On the other hand, in-store shopping was considered the most reliable and safest option (69% and 77%, respectively) when compared with online and mobile shopping.

Nielsen also noted that as a retail channel, mobile has yet to gain broad acceptance; however, it ranked second in the most convenient and easiest categories when it came to purchase preference (38% and 27%, respectively).

Related Nielsen research regarding consumer shopping behaviors can be found here and here.

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Ohio Medicaid program: Beneficiaries can continue getting diabetes testing supplies from local pharmacies

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Ohio’s Medicaid program has decided not to establish a competitive bidding and mandatory mail-order program for diabetes testing supplies.

In a letter sent to the National Community Pharmacists Association, Ohio state Medicaid director John McCarthy said the state has opted for a manufacturer rebate model that gives the state access to discounted pricing from manufacturers. The NCPA said the state’s decision was in response to advocacy efforts by the Ohio Pharmacists Association and a letter sent by the NCPA explaining the negative consequences that requiring mail order would have on diabetic Medicaid beneficiaries and the independent pharmacies that serve them.

"Independent pharmacists are part of the solution when it comes to high costs, especially in Medicaid," NCPA CEO Douglas Hoey said. "Ohio’s Medicaid program found a compromise that maintains beneficiary choice and access to diabetes testing strips. We look forward to working collaboratively with Ohio and other states to reduce healthcare costs in a responsible and effective manner that doesn’t have unintended consequences. A special acknowledgement must be given to the Ohio Pharmacists Association and Ernie Boyd who took the lead in working toward this desired outcome."


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