Walgreens Pharmacy Rejoins Medicare Part D Plan

After a one-year separation, Medicare Part D and Walgreens are together again.

Global Post is reporting that Express Scripts Holding Company, the largest U.S. pharmacy benefit manager, said Walgreens Company would sell prescription drugs under its two Medicare Part D plans for 2015.

Beneficiaries of Express Scripts' Medicare Value or Choice plans for 2015 can get Tier 1 generic drugs free or for as little as $1, respectively, if they buy from pharmacies in its preferred network, such as Walgreens.

Medicare Part D, which is only available through private insurance companies, gives subsidies on prescription drugs to the elderly and disabled clients.

Walgreens, the largest U.S. drugstore operator, lost billions of dollars in annual sales in 2012 after a fallout with Express Scripts over contract terms regarding Medicare Part D at the end of 2011.

The companies resolved the dispute in July 2012 and signed a multi-year agreement, making Walgreens a part of Express Scripts' preferred pharmacy network.

Walgreens reported its biggest jump in quarterly sales in three years on Tuesday, driven by a 9.3 percent rise in prescription sales in the fourth quarter.

The company ended the year with a record 856 million filled prescriptions, including 211 million in the quarter ended Aug. 31, but said its pharmacy profit margin fell due to lower reimbursements and generic drug price inflation.

Reimbursement rates for Medicare Part D drug plans would likely keep falling due to growing competition to win these contracts, the company said on a post-earnings conference call.

Express Scripts said enrollments for its 2015 plans would start on Oct. 15 and end on Dec. 7. Coverage for the plan year will start on Jan. 1.

Bloomberg Businessweek is reporting that persons who enroll in the Express Scripts Medicare Value or Choice prescription drug plans for 2015 can save significantly with $0 or $1 copayments, respectively, for Tier 1 generic medications when using one of the more than 27,000 pharmacies in the plans' preferred retail network.

The network includes approximately 8,200 Walgreens pharmacies nationwide and more than 18,500 community pharmacies. The preferred pharmacy network also offers reduced copayments for Tier 2 generics, preferred and non-preferred brand name medications.

"We offer 24/7 access to Medicare advisors who can help enrollees save money on their medications and delay reaching the Coverage Gap, and pharmacists who are always available to answer questions about medications from the privacy of the beneficiary's home. Most importantly, enrollees have access to Express Scripts specialist pharmacists, who have expertise in the medications that treat conditions most common among seniors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and can offer personalized clinical support and care," said Mike Looney, Vice President of Medicare Prescription Drug Plans.

Enrollees in each of these plans also have access to the cost savings and convenience of the Express Scripts Home Delivery Pharmacy, and access to a broader network of more than 67,000 retail pharmacies nationwide.

In addition to the savings available through the preferred retail pharmacy network, enrollees in the Express Scripts Medicare Choice plan benefit from a $0 deductible for Tier 1 and Tier 2 generics, and $0 copayment for 90-day supplies of Tier 1 generics from the Express Scripts Home Delivery Pharmacy. Enrollees in the Express Scripts Medicare Value plan pay a low monthly premium and just $3 for a 90-day supply of Tier 1 generics through Home Delivery.

"Together, Walgreens and Express Scripts have extensive experience serving the healthcare needs of Medicare beneficiaries, and this is another way we can help them get the most value from their Part D plan," said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens President of Pharmacy, Health, and Wellness. "By serving as a preferred network provider, Walgreens can offer plan members greater access to pharmacy services, cost savings opportunities and personalized care from our more than 27,000 pharmacists."

Persons interested should contact their healthcare insurer or Express Scripts for further information.