[HEALTH.MIL] TRICARE Promises Continued Access To Prescription Meds

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  • Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2011 10:25:38 -0500

TRICARE Promises Continued Access To Prescription Meds

September 16, 2011
By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2011 -- A dispute between Walgreens and a TRICARE
contractor will not stop beneficiaries from getting their prescriptions filled,
despite a Walgreen's ad campaign to the contrary, a TRICARE official said today.
"Don't let that advertising, letter and internet outreach campaign scare you,"
Navy Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, deputy director of the TRICARE Management
Agency, said. "Even if contract renewal negotiations fall through and Walgreens
drops out of TRICARE's retail pharmacy network on Jan. 1, beneficiaries still
will have plenty of other options for getting their prescriptions filled."
Hunter called the dispute between Walgreens and Express Scripts, Inc., the
contractor for TRICARE's retail pharmacy and pharmacy home delivery programs "a
business matter" between the two companies.
A similar impasse between the two companies in 2008 ultimately was resolved by
mid-November, about six weeks before the new contract was to take effect, she
Walgreens is a big player in the TRICARE pharmacy network, with about 7,000
participating outlets that Hunter said have filled prescriptions for one in 10
TRICARE beneficiaries at one time or another.
Concerned about a campaign that has alarmed some TRICARE beneficiaries, Hunter
offered assurance today that regardless of how this year's negotiations go,
patients will always have access to the medications they need.
"If Walgreens does drop out or fail to renew their relationship with ESI so they
are not included in the network, patients will still have 56,000 other
pharmacies to obtain their medications at retail," she said. "We have a very,
very broad network" that, for the vast majority of beneficiaries, ensures them
access to a participating pharmacy within two miles of their homes.
Meanwhile, Hunter emphasized other options TRICARE beneficiaries can use to get
their medications: a TRICARE military treatment facility or the increasingly
popular mail-order and home-delivery plans.
Hunter is a big proponent of the mail-order and home-delivery program, helping
boost participation by 9.9 percent this year alone as retail pharmacy use grew
by just 1.6 percent. Delivering medications directly to the beneficiary's home
assures an uninterrupted supply of medication, she said, while saving money for
beneficiaries as well as the Defense Department.
"I would recommend that this is a great time to consider TRICARE [Pharmacy] Home
Delivery for chronic medications," Hunter said.
But with more than three months left on Walgreen's current contract with ESI,
she emphasized, "There is no emergency, and there is time for people to
understand and consider their options."
Those who elect to stay with the retail pharmacy option but are concerned that
Walgreens could drop out of the TRICARE pharmacy network also have the option of
moving their prescriptions to another pharmacy in the TRICARE network now.
"We are not taking a position about whether patients should move their
prescriptions," Hunter said. "We are allowing this issue to play itself out, but
those who want to can do so, and that will absolutely be honored."
Because all prescription information is centralized, the only thing patients
need to do to move their prescriptions is to take their medication bottle or
tube to another pharmacy. "They don't need another prescription or visit to a
doctor," Hunter said.
NOTE:  Locate a TRICARE Retail Pharmacy

Beneficiaries also can elect to use pharmacies not included in the TRICARE
network. However, Hunter offered a reminder that these users will receive only
partial reimbursement for their out-of-pocket costs and could have to file their
own insurance claim, where network pharmacies do that automatically.
"Our focus is on ensuring patients have access to the care they need," including
reliable access to their prescription medications," she said. "Our goal is to be
sure people have the information they need so that they get their medications in
a timely fashion." 

SOURCE:  American Forces Press Service News Release at

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