With Declining Reimbursements, Community Pharmacies Have Been Hit Hard by the Pandemic

Susan Lang, CEO of XIL Health and former senior executive at Express Scripts, discusses the impact of declining reimbursements on pharmacies that were already hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Susan Lang, CEO of XIL Health and former senior executive at Express Scripts, on the losses that pharmacies have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alana Hippensteele: So, Susan, how has the COVID-19 pandemic caused some pharmacies to experience significant financial losses?

Susan Lang: Sure, so thank you for having me today. So, the first issue is that everybody knows in the industry: Reimbursements for pharmacies continue to decline year over year.

When COVID-19 hit, pharmacies were scrambling to reassemble their resources to make sure they could get shots in arms. So, I think maybe what the government didn't realize in the past is the critical role that pharmacies play in providing care to our community. And they're everywhere—you can have a pharmacy where you don't have a hospital.

So, there are many rural communities where you might only have a clinic or pharmacy, so they’re just a critical part of providing care.

If you are staffed to have folks behind the counter, and they have to come in front of the counter now to put shots in people's arms, that's a completely different resource space than you had in the past, and it's a finite resource. You have to find people that are clinical licensed nurses or pharmacists. So, I think that's been a big scramble.

It's certainly increased their cost structure tremendously, while at the same time taking resources away from their negotiations and focused on what they have to do with the payers just to keep the reimbursement coming into the pharmacy for their everyday jobs.

So, I think it's created a lot of conflicts, enormous amount of challenges, but I think they've done an incredible job. We've got 50% of adults vaccinated in the United States. It's a remarkable achievement. Most of that, or a good portion of that, is due to these pharmacies that are all over the country, such as the Walgreens, the Kroger’s, the Rite Aid’s, the CVS's. But it has not come without challenges, as you can imagine.