Sunday, January 8, 2012

$25 incentive to transfer extended to Jan. 31, 2012

On the top right of the front page of The Columbus Dispatch today (Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012), Kroger ran another ad mentioning their offer to give $25 in Rx Rewards (towards groceries and other items at their stores) for each prescription transferred to them from a competitor.

Similar ads appeared on the front page of the same paper three other days last week.  No coupon was run.  But you can simply mention the ad and the pharmacy at Kroger should honor it.  Giant Eagle (at least the one at Sawmill and Bethel) may still honor you mentioning Kroger's offer -- and match or list of drugs (with Rx #s and the name and phone number of where you're transferring your medications from).

This extends to Jan. 31, 2012, the offer that originally was listed as expiring at the end of November ... and later listed as ending at end of December.

It might help to rip the ad off the front page of the paper and take it with you as sort of a "coupon" to Giant Eagle ... or anywhere else you might ask to accept it / match it -- such as CVS or Meijer.

The Kroger weekly sales flyer this week in the Columbus, OH, area has a pharmacy ad at bottom with green highlight about "We accept major insurance plans, including EXPRESS SCRIPTS!" and a red splash that mentions "Transfer a prescription, get $25 FREE Groceries!" with lots of fine print details including "Additional restrictions and limits apply. See pharmacy for details."

What's with the blitz about EXPRESS SCRIPTS?

You may have noticed the blitz by CVS and Target and Meijer and other pharmacies touting that they accept EXPRESS SCRIPTS -- a prescription benefits company that has lowered what it pays pharmacies so much that Walgreens wisely refused to keep accepting their insurance at the start of 2012.  Unlike other things sold at stores, pharmacies do not make a percentage of what you pay or what you pay plus what your health plan's prescription benefit pays.  Most of what they are paid is a set dispensing fee per bottle filled.  It varies widely -- I've heard of $1 to $2 -- but this latest absurdity of Express Scripts (which prefers to have as few retail competitors as possible so its clients will mail in orders to their mail-order pharmacy).  

Expressing displeasure with "Express Scripts" ...

By the way, Express Scripts is the worst pharmacy -- mail-order or otherwise -- that I've ever dealt with.   My first displeasure to try them was in the past month.  It has taken 3 weeks so far to not get me drugs while they harass my doc about changes they want to make to prescriptions -- demanding an answer of "Deny" for a second one rather than just understand that as a given when they were sent back one that said "Accept" substitution when they sent her two requests.  And, even if she sends back the faxed form with "Deny" marked, the next time I mail in a prescription from her for the same drug on their "block and try to switch" list, they'll do the same thing again ... unless she writes "DAW" (Dispense As Written) on there.

Most annoying is that during the 2-week delay, it just shows on their website that it's "Processing."  And the Details give no details about which one or two or more are holding up all the rest.  Yep, the won't send any until they hear back from the doc about all of them.  Absurd!  The useless Tier 1 "customer service" reps at Express Scripts who answer your calls aren't allowed to tell you anything except try to placate you with b.s. -- "It looks like everything is going fine.  It sometimes takes two or three weeks to fully process an order."  

TIP:  Besides escaping the voice tree maze/jail with a "zero" (0) followed by a (1), don't waste too much time with that first human voice on the phone.  Ask for a supervisor and ask for specifics about which drugs in the order are on the "stop list" and what date things were sent to your physician to request an OK to substitute a different brand or drug or even dosage -- often moving toward a drug manufacturer that they have "agreements" with (maybe getting some kickbacks or better deals -- like with AccuCheck and OneTouch over Bayer's Contour for glucose test strips and lancets -- or where they are trying to punish a big company like Bayer on glucose test sales to extort a better price on other medications where only brand names are available ... or are very popular with physicians).

Unfortunately, many companies and institutions -- including Ohio State University -- have moved from Medco Health and other prescription benefit providers to Express Scripts at the promise of reducing the cost they pay for prescriptions.   The way they do this is increasingly squeeze customers so they have fewer choices -- fewer convenient and high-quality places they can go for care and prescriptions and fewer prescriptions that are included on the formulary.   Even things as minor as the brand of of glucose testing strips or lancets that will be covered at a 30% co-pay vs. a 50% co-pay is being implemented.  So, if I don't want to pay almost double for testing strips, I need to buy new glucose test units and use strips that require a blood sample almost twice as big -- and that requires a deeper/wider puncture that hurts more than twice as much! ;-)

This year, they have started sending confusing letters -- on their own stationery and that of employers -- that say you have to get all of your maintenance prescriptions from Express Scripts "home delivery" service or else you won't qualify for "special value price" on certain medications.   Now you have to know that the special value price is only

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