Tricare Supporters Petition Express Scripts Demanding Access to Walgreens

More than a quarter of a million US military personnel, family members, retirees, and others in the Department of Defense Tricare pharmacy benefits program, and their supporters, have signed petitions demanding access to Walgreens pharmacies under the Tricare pharmacy program. The pace of petition signatures from Tricare members seeking to retain access to Walgreens and their supporters has reached more than 10,000 per week in recent weeks.

Walgreens said the refusal by Express Scripts Inc, the pharmacy benefit manager for Tricare, to separate the Tricare business from its other business disputes with Walgreens suggests a willingness to sacrifice the needs of Tricare beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, Walgreens has repeatedly offered to remain in the Tricare pharmacy network through proposals to Express Scripts that are designed to prevent disruption to military personnel, families, and retirees. These proposals would protect Tricare member choice of Walgreens and provide savings to the program and taxpayers.

Specifically, Walgreens has:

  • Offered to negotiate the Tricare renewal separately from Express Scripts’ commercial business in order to continue to provide Walgreens services on an uninterrupted basis to all active and retired military personnel.
  • Offered to lower Tricare reimbursement rates across the board resulting in double-digit million dollar savings to the US military and taxpayers over the next few years.
  • Provided an ironclad guarantee that Walgreens prices would match or beat the average costs per adjusted prescription of all other retail pharmacies in the Tricare network. Costs would be compared on an apples-to-apples basis and verified by an objective third party each quarter. Walgreens also committed to reimbursing Tricare for any overage following the end of each quarterly review.

“The last thing military personnel, families and retirees need is for their pharmacy benefits and choices to be disrupted by this issue,” said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness solutions and services. “Walgreens proposals to protect Tricare members remain on the table. There is no reason the parties cannot act quickly—before the Dec. 31 deadline—to protect Tricare members from disruption, and Walgreens is prepared to do so.”

Express Scripts’ rejection of Walgreens offers means that Tricare’s nearly 6 million beneficiaries will no longer have in-network insurance coverage for prescriptions they fill at Walgreens and Duane Reade pharmacies starting on Jan. 1, 2012.

“During Walgreens 100-plus years of serving the pharmacy needs of America’s military personnel, families and retirees, we have developed a trusted relationship that Tricare beneficiaries value and depend on,” said Crawford in a statement. “We urge Express Scripts to heed the call of more than 250,000 Tricare members and their supporters so far, to prevent disruption of Tricare members’ relationship with our community pharmacists and put the needs of military communities ahead of this business matter.”

Walgreens also pledged that if Express Scripts continues to reject these offers, the company will work with Tricare beneficiaries in an effort to make any transition after Dec. 31, 2011, as seamless as possible.