PHARMACY

UnitedHealthcare partners with Kroger, Safeway on $2 generic Part D plan

BY Alaric DeArment

MINNETONKA, Minn. — UnitedHealth Group will start a program next year that it said can reduce drug costs to as low as $2 per script, the company said Tuesday.

The program, Pharmacy Saver, will be available to Medicare Part D members and is a collaboration with Kroger, Safeway and Prescription Solutions. The program will allow members to purchase some scripts for $2 for 30- and some 90-day supplies and applies to hundreds of prescription drugs, including 8-of-the-10 most commonly used by UnitedHealthcare Medicare plan members.

“Economic pressures are putting a strain on many people’s budgets, including [those of] many seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries living on fixed incomes,” UnitedHealthcare Medicare and Retirement CEO Tom Paul said. “Pharmacy Saver is another example of our promise to provide our members with affordable prescription drugs.”

The program is similar to one that Walmart and Humana launched at the beginning of October that charges Medicare Part D members a $14.80 monthly premium, generic drug co-payments as low as $2 at Walmart pharmacies and no co-payments for certain generics filled through Humana’s RightSource home-delivery service.

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dLife sheds light on diabetic patients’ struggles with healthcare costs

BY Alaric DeArment

WESTPORT, Conn. — More than half of people with diabetes struggle to pay for their medical supplies, according to a poll by diabetes community network dLife.com.

The poll also found that 49% of the more than 800 people surveyed were able to make ends meet with income and health insurance, but still felt stress, particularly during certain months of the year.

Meanwhile, more than 30% reported having to cut back on prescription drugs, supplies and medical care, while 16% accepted community or government assistance programs.

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Seizing on new study of Part D plans, NCPA urges seniors to choose carefully

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — More than ever, seniors who rely on Medicare need to carefully evaluate the dizzying array of prescription drug plan choices available to them, as the 2011 enrollment period for Medicare Part D drug benefit program goes into high gear, independent pharmacy leaders declared Tuesday.

Faced with the challenge posed by Walmart’s recent launch of a new, low-cost Part D drug plan for Medicare beneficiaries in 2011, in partnership with insurance giant Humana, the National Community Pharmacists Association issued a warning to seniors: look beyond price when making a decision about which Part D plan to sign with for next year. Many independents are clearly concerned over the Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan, which offers Part D beneficiaries a $14.80 monthly plan premium and low co-pays if they obtain their prescriptions from a pharmacy owned and operated by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The group cited a new study from health policy consulting firm Avalere Health, which concludes that Medicare beneficiaries still face a dizzying array of choices in drug plans and need to carefully evaluate the pluses and minuses of each before enrolling.

“The study released [today] by Avalere Health underscores the importance for seniors and caregivers of reading the fine print when determining what plan is best for the particular Medicare beneficiary, because some of the headline-grabbing offers might not best meet their medication needs,” NCPA EVP and CEO Kathleen Jaeger said Tuesday.

“Community pharmacists are a valuable resource for patients and caregivers navigating the Medicare Part D prescription drug program maze,” Jaeger pointed out. “More than ever before, a consumer needs to be fully informed about the total prescription drug plan being offered — including deductibles, co-pays and the actual cost of the drug.”

Like her predecessor, NCPA’s new top executive is taking a combative stance vis-a-vis big-box pharmacy rivals. “Sometimes, when something sounds too good to be true, it is,” Jaeger argued. “In some cases, consumers are having their choice of community pharmacies taken away, some plans are pushing mail order pharmacies with 1-800 lines — all of which take the personal interaction out of providing quality care in dispensing medication and corresponding counseling. And, in most cases, the long-established relationships between patients and their community pharmacists are being broken in the quest for a Part D plan to simply increase its market share.

“We can’t let patient care take a back seat to market share,” she added.

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