Walgreens pharmacists are no longer giving customers advice on which Medicare Part D plans best work with the customers’ prescriptions by the Dec. 31 deadline, and a Medicare spokesman says that’s a good thing.
People should get help with their Part D plan choice by calling the Medicare help line at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or by getting counseling from AARP or their local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), according to Medicare, because pharmacies get rewarded for putting or keeping customers in plans or prescriptions administered by so-called Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs.
PBMs such as Medco, Caremark and Express Scripts set up lists, called formularies, of drugs for which the PBM has negotiated a deal from which the PBM profits.
“If the pharmacy is benefiting from a certain PBM’s plan because it provides a richer reimbursement (to the pharmacy), the pharmacists shouldn’t jade the conversation about Medicare options based on how they are reimbursed,” said Medicare spokesman Tony Salters. “I’m not saying it is being done, but it could be done.”
Walgreen Co. spokesman Robert Elfinger said the Medicare Part D plan-comparison report was removed from Walgreens website and retail pharmacy system due to “programming issues.”
But Walgreens pharmacists stopped using the system after Humana filed a lawsuit against Walgreens, alleging that Walgreens’ online “plan finder” tool was displaying inaccurate information about Humana Medicare prescription-drug plans and was listing prices for Humana plans that were higher than the actual prices.
Soon after Humana’s Dec. 3 court filing, Walgreens chose to remove the plan-finder tool from its website, said Humana spokesman Jim Turner.
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