Texas Health and Human Services Commission to modernize Medicaid program
WASHINGTON — The agency that operates Texas’ state Medicaid program is proposing to save costs by administering prescription drug benefits the same way private insurers do, drawing praise from a trade group representing the country’s pharmacy benefit managers.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which runs the program, said the change would save state taxpayers $82 million. Similar changes have been proposed in New York and New Jersey.
“Texas shouldn’t pay more for Medicaid drug benefits than private insurers and Medicare,” Pharmaceutical Care Management Association president and CEO Mark Merritt said. “Currently, the program uses fewer generic drugs and pays drug stores more than triple the fees that Medicare or private insurers pay. By modernizing Medicaid drug benefits, Texas will save millions without cutting benefits to those in need.”
Winn-Dixie regains lost ground with new pharmacy, design efforts
Nothing shows a retailer that its revitalization efforts are working quite like a thumbs-up from customers. For Winn-Dixie Stores, that vote of confidence came in mid-February, when its pharmacy business was among 40 U.S. companies honored as 2011 “customer service champions” by J.D. Power and Associates.
Winn-Dixie pharmacies have undergone a major transformation since John Fegan, VP pharmacy, joined the Jacksonville, Fla.-based chain two years ago. The rebuilding process, he told Drug Store News, began with “making sure we’ve got the right people in place, and giving them the tools that would allow them to interact with the patient.” To that end, the company invested in training programs both for immunizing patients and medication therapy management. Result: all but about 30 of its roughly 800 pharmacists now are certified to provide vaccinations, and some 400 are MTM-qualified.
Winn-Dixie has launched WD RxConnect, a centralized prescription record system. Also relatively new is an automated, phone-based refill reminder program and an optional program called Ready Refill that automatically refills maintenance meds. Capping the latest efforts was the unveiling last year of a store prototype that showcases the chain’s “Fresh & Local” market image.
Restructuring, new format fuse wellness, pharmacy at Weis
Weis Markets streamlined its internal connection between wellness and pharmacy earlier this year with an organizational restructuring that folded the Weis Lifestyle Initiatives department, led by registered dietitian Karen Buch, into the grocer’s pharmacy division. It is the first official move by a supermarket retailer to literally draw a direct line between food and pharmacy.
“We’re looking to more closely align some of the initiatives in pharmacy, which are becoming much more service oriented,” Jeff Maltese, Weis’ VP pharmacy, told Drug Store News. “There’s an opportunity for us to leverage both of those healthcare professionals — [the registered dietitian and pharmacist] — under one department.” There’s also significant opportunity to develop prevention-minded programs for those health-savvy consumers actively looking to avoid chronic illnesses, Maltese added.
The Lifestyle Initiatives team has directed such projects as Weis’ Healthy Bites publication, a free monthly magazine and social media directive touting health and better-for-you recipes. That directive now will contain a more clinical focus, he said. “We’re also going to leverage [Karen Buch’s] knowledge to educate pharmacists about how better to speak to [customers’] dietary consideration for their disease.”
Weis Markets last year overhauled its flagship format, featuring a redesigned pharmacy that makes the pharmacist more accessible. The new floor layout incorporates a dedicated pharmacy consultation room that doubles as a vaccination clinic. Medication therapy management training for all Weis pharmacists will be coming this fall.