Thursday, August 30, 2012

Walgreens accepting Express Scripts insurance again starting Sept. 15

In short: 

The big fight between Walgreens and Express Scripts is over. They've come to an agreement. And, Express Scripts customers can again have their insurance accepted at Walgreens starting September 15.    [Details.]

So what? ...

Many long-time fans of Walgreens (my Dad included) had to go elsewhere all year to get their prescriptions filled -- either from a competing retail pharmacy (such as CVS, Giant Eagle, Kroger, or Rite Aid) or from the Express Scripts mail order service.  It was especially annoying in areas where Walgreens is the main (if not only) free-standing pharmacy (not in a grocery store).

Walgreens will also be starting a new loyalty card program to encourage customers they lost to come back and stay with them.  That also premiers in mid September.  [Details.]

Many pharmacies tried to lure
loyal Walgreens customers
when ever-growing Express Scripts
Rx insurance was no longer
accepted by Walgreens
starting Jan. 1, 2012.
What doess this have to do with
Rx Coupons? ...

Walgreens already has  Rx coupons  out that will give you a $25 gift card for each prescription you transfer back to them (by Sept. 30).  This was mentioned in a previous posting here.  (Be sure you ask for the pharmacy manager and have her/him clarify whether they will honor multiple coupons/prescriptions ... and, if so, how many; some will try to say you only get ONE gift card even if you're transferring a dozen or more prescriptions back to them; make them show they're more grateful than that to have you back; you'll have better luck with most who are managers and/or have a clue about how much of a loss of business they suffered ... not just in prescription business but customer traffic overall -- most importantly those extra bodies walking through the store to the pharmacy counter in back who usually spend plenty of money buying other stuff in the store -- where they make their real profit margin).

More Rx coupons (from Walgreens and other pharmacies) are likely to come out throughout the rest of 2012 and into the start of the new calendar year (as UnitedHealthcare and other companies leave Express Scripts and more customers may be up for grabs as their options expand, contract, or just change).

Will they come back?: 
I suspect there are many former Walgreens customers who tried CVS or Kroger and are eager to go back to Walgreens. At least in this area (Columbus, Ohio), they have far superior customer service at the pharmacy. It seems like less of a pill mill and more like the friendly pharmacy I recall visiting 30 or 40 years ago before any Rx were sold through a drive thru or by mail.

Some market analysts think CVS will keep most of those Walgreens customers who came to it (as mentioned in this Chicago Tribune article); and Express Scripts thinks it will keep most of those Walgreens customers who tried out their mail-order service (as their CEO says in this article).      Hmmmm .... I doubt both of those projections ... especially the latter.

 My rant  (Express Scripts' Mail Order & Rx Hostage Holding "service"): 
Merck Medco and Medco Health (that emerged from the split of Merck Medco into two companies -- one that invented/made pills and the other that sold them to customers by mail and handled Rx insurance) had great customer service when I used them about 7 to 10 years ago for most of my meds.

But Express Scripts is horrible. It is the worst thing I've ever had to deal with when it comes to getting my prescriptions filled in a "timely" manner without hassle. They harass my docs with faxes that suggest other drug substitutions ... and these substitution "suggestions"/demands have to be answered "OK" or "Not OK" with a doctor signature ... or else they won't release what was prescribed/ordered ... and usually hold up every other Rx ordered or re-ordered at the same time ... and they do it every time it's reordered ... absurd).

More details on the Walgreens vs. Express Scripts battle (and resolution):

Walgreens has reached an agreement with the pharmacy insurance giant/bully Express Scripts (which recently acquired Medco Health). Since the start of 2012, Walgreens wisely refused to let Express Scripts force them to accept an unreasonably cheap amount of money for most of the prescriptions they filled for customers. Walgreens lost a lot of customer traffic and about 7% in sales. But at the rate Express Scripts was trying to force through, they'd have kept sales volume but lost money on most every prescription filled. At least that's how I understand it. If I'm wrong and you can describe it better (or provide a link to something more clear), please add it as a comment to this posting. I try to authorize them within a few days after I got an email that a new one is waiting for me to view.

The good news?

More Rx coupons!!!  Walgreens will issue them to lure you back.   Kroger and Giant Eagle will likely issue them to get people who transfer back to Walgreens to give them another chance ... or get those who tried CVS and are ready to move again to try them before going back to Walgreens.

And remember, even if you don't plan to use Walgreens and have two favorite pharmacies such as a certain CVS and a certain Giant Eagle, you can use the Walgreens Rx coupons at both CVS and Giant Eagle (in most markets) because they accept competitor coupons ... as does Kroger.    For details, see .