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Walgreens cuts ties with TRICARE pharmacy contractor

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Walgreens to drop out of Express Scripts network. In a move that surprised many, Walgreens, the nation’s largest retail drugstore chain pharmacy, announced that it will cut ties with TRICARE Retail Pharmacy’s contractor, Express Scripts, Inc., by the end of the year.

In response, Express Scripts’ chairman and CEO George Paz said, "In these challenging economic times, it is critical that we all work together to keep medicines affordable and accessible.

Adding "It is shocking to us that Walgreens would back away from the table with six months to go in the current agreement, especially considering that negotiations are part of the normal course of business."

What will this mean to TRICARE beneficiaries who use Walgreens?

For now, Walgreens will continue to fill prescriptions for TRICARE patients at least until Jan. 1, 2012. At that point, if both sides are unable to come to an agreement, TRICARE Pharmacy benefits will no longer be available at Walgreens.

TRICARE and Express Scripts officials have assured us that "99 percent of beneficiaries have another network provider within 5 miles of the Walgreens they now use and, on average, another pharmacy within our national network is within a half mile of a Walgreens."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote Walgreens CEO and urged that they come back to the negotiating table and renew a contract with Express Scripts.

Her letter stated in part, "I am requesting your personal involvement to reconsider this decision and renew the contract to provide TRICARE coverage before the contract expires on 31 December 2011. … If the contract with TRICARE Retail Pharmacy contractor, Express Scripts, is not renewed, many retirees and their families will face a major inconvenience, and in some cases a significant hardship, in seeking alternatives for their prescription needs, especially in areas where drug store choices are limited.

"I hope you agree with me that we must do all we can to support our veterans and respectfully request your review of this critical issue." 

AUSA will follow this situation closely and report on any developments.

There’s an App for that. TRICARE and Express Scripts, Inc. (ESI) announced the launch of the TRICARE Express Rx mobile app and mobile-optimized Web site. 

These tools will allow TRICARE beneficiaries to manage their prescriptions and access important health information safely and securely from anywhere using their smart phone.

The Express Rx app and mobile-optimized Web site will allow beneficiaries to register for TRICARE pharmacy home delivery and switch current prescriptions over to home delivery. 

Beneficiaries can also order home delivery refills and check order status.  Another feature allows beneficiaries to look up information on their current prescriptions. On GPS-enabled smart phones, the app can direct beneficiaries to the closest retail pharmacy in their network.

"Improving convenience for our beneficiaries and broadening access to necessary services like prescription information is a key focus for TRICARE," Rear Adm. Thomas J. McGinnis, chief of TRICARE Pharmacy Operations, said.

To ensure security and data protection, beneficiaries must register through the member portal at www.express-scripts.com/TRICARE before logging in to the Express Rx app or mobile-optimized site.  Once registered, the same username and password allow access to the Express Rx app and mobile-optimized website. 

Smartphone users can download the app for free by going to www.express-scripts.com/mobile or by using services like the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace.  The mobile-optimized pharmacy website can be accessed at http://m.esrx.com.