The nation's largest drug chains are positioning their pharmacists as trusted advisers for seniors as the open enrollment period for Medicare Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs) gets under way.

Medicare Part D, prescription drug plan, PDP, CVS/pharmacy, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart, pharmacists, Part D options, prescription drug, Medicare beneficiaries, prescription benefits, Medicare Part D plans, Papatya Tankut, pharmacy professional services, Medicare Part D kiosks, CVS/pharmacy Medicare Part D Starter Kit, Medicare Part C fairs, Medicare Part D consultation, Rite Aid's Medicare Advisor, Robert Thompson, Rite Aid pharmacists, Part D coverage, Part D plan comparison reports, Medicare's online plan finder, drug stores, Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, Affordable Care Act, preventive services, Take Care Clinics, Medicare Preventive Visit, Medicare Yearly Wellness Visits, Suzanne Hansen, Humana, Charles Bernard, Medicare population, preferred pharmacy network, co-branded Medicare Part D plan, Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan, John Agwunobi, Russell Redman, health insurer

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Drug chains kick off Medicare Part D campaigns

October 15th, 2012

NEW YORK – The nation's largest drug chains are positioning their pharmacists as trusted advisers for seniors as the open enrollment period for Medicare Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs) gets under way.

CVS/pharmacy, Rite Aid and Walgreens on Monday urged seniors to stop by their stores and consult with one of their pharmacists to review their Part D options if they are signing up for the first time or want to see if their current coverage best matches their prescription drug needs.

The annual enrollment period, which runs Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, is the one time a year that most Medicare beneficiaries can review their current prescription benefits and enroll in a new plan for 2013 if they choose.

"Because Medicare Part D plans change every year and the prescriptions they take may also change, we strongly recommend that beneficiaries review the various plans available on an annual basis to determine which plan best fits their own prescription needs and financial situation for the coming year," Papatya Tankut, vice president of pharmacy professional services at CVS/pharmacy, said in a statement. "CVS pharmacists are available throughout the annual enrollment period to help patients save money by providing them all of their current prescription information required to complete plan comparisons using the online Medicare Plan Finder. While pharmacists cannot recommend any specific Medicare Part D plan, they can help guide patients through the selection process to choose the best plan for their individual needs."

CVS noted that Medicare Part D kiosks also are installed in 7,400 CVS/pharmacy locations. The kiosks offer information from plans available locally to Medicare beneficiaries, as well as the CVS/pharmacy Medicare Part D Starter Kit. The kit contains instructions on how to complete a Medicare Part D plan comparison, an overview of new online tools at that help patients to manage their prescriptions, and information about no-cost flu shots for Medicare Part B participants.

Medicare Part D Fairs also are slated to be held at CVS/pharmacy locations in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif.; Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., in October and November. The fairs will feature representatives from Part D plans available in those markets to provide information about prescription coverage options for 2013.

"Covered medications, plan premiums, deductibles, prescription co-payments and annual out-of-pocket expenses can change every year," added Tankut. "When comparing Medicare Part D plans to determine which plan works best for you in terms of cost, it's important to consider all of these elements to calculate the total cost of the plan. Other important considerations are whether the medications you are taking have changed, if you're traveling more frequently or have moved, because covered drugs and cost sharing may vary between plans and from region to region."

"Medicare Part D plans are not all created alike, and finding the right Medicare Part D plan can be overwhelming."

— Robert Thompson, Rite Aid

Rite Aid, meanwhile, said seniors and their caregivers can stop by any of its 4,600-plus drug stores for a free, personalized Medicare Part D consultation with a pharmacist, or they use the company's Medicare Advisor comparison tools online at

The drug chain is recommending that seniors make an appointment for a consultation but said they're not necessary. Still, the company noted that because there's a complicated pricing process used by Part D plan providers, coverage rates vary depending on the drugs needed and by the region in which a beneficiary lives.

There are about 30 PDPs available in any one region, and the best plan last year is not necessarily the best plan this year, according to Rite Aid.

"Medicare Part D plans are not all created alike, and finding the right Medicare Part D plan can be overwhelming," stated Robert Thompson, executive vice president of pharmacy at Rite Aid. "But it's easier with a trusted adviser. Rite Aid pharmacists stand ready to help their patients find the plan in their area that is best for their prescription needs."

If they can't get to a store, patients and caregivers can compare plans from the comfort of their own home using Rite Aid's Medicare Advisor online at Comparisons in stores and online generate a printable report estimating the three lowest-cost plans based on the enrollee's current prescriptions filled at Rite Aid locations.

Citing a report last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Rite Aid said there are 19.7 million beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part D plans.

Walgreens is helping seniors evaluate their Part D coverage choices by offering free, personalized Part D plan comparison reports to help beneficiaries identify the plan that best suits their prescription needs. The plan reviews are available on a walk-in basis at the chain's nearly 8,000 stores or by scheduling an appointment at

Plan comparison reports are generated from Medicare's online plan finder, Walgreens said. The report details each plan's estimated annual costs, including monthly premiums, brand and generic co-pays, and coverage through the "doughnut hole" coverage gap. The company noted that Medicare beneficiaries should also ensure their pharmacy of choice is in their plan's network.

"The Medicare landscape can be challenging to navigate, and our pharmacists are trusted resources who can help beneficiaries understand their options to make the most informed plan choice," Suzanne Hansen, group vice president of pharmacy operations at Walgreens, said in a statement. "Prescription drug coverage is oftentimes critical for those selecting new plans or evaluating their current plan. It's helpful for Medicare beneficiaries to understand some of the ways to save on prescription costs through the use of preferred pharmacy networks or other means."

"With the Medicare population growing rapidly each day, more and more people age 65 and older are seeking personalized care from our community pharmacists and can benefit from having Walgreens as part of a preferred pharmacy network."

— Charles Bernard, Walgreens

In addition, Walgreens is working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and others to help Medicare beneficiaries learn about new benefits available to them under the Affordable Care Act. The chain is providing customers educational materials on newly available preventive services as well as ways to save on prescription drug spending in the doughnut hole. And all Take Care Clinics in Walgreens stores are offering Medicare enrollees the "Welcome to Medicare Preventive Visit" and "Medicare Yearly Wellness Visits, which include health screenings for common conditions along with education and counseling to encourage wellness and prevent disease.

Last week, Walgreens announced it will be a part of preferred pharmacy networks of four national Medicare Part D plan sponsors: Coventry, Humana, SmartD Rx and UnitedHealthcare. The drug chain added that it will also be in the network of hundreds of other Medicare PDPs for 2013.

Health insurer Humana said last week that it's working with Walgreens during the enrollment period to staff nearly 100 Walgreens stores in Florida and more than 50 Walgreens stores in Puerto Rico with Humana Medicare sales representatives. The sales agents will provide beneficiaries with information on Medicare Advantage health plans and PDPs, including the Humana Enhanced Prescription Drug Plan.

"We’re excited to work with Walgreens on this new Medicare enrollment initiative," stated Dariel Quintana, Humana MarketPoint regional vice president. "At Humana, we’re striving to meet our customers where they are and to make it more convenient for those looking for help in choosing the right Medicare prescription and health plans for their families. Walgreens brings greater convenience and access to help provide the information people need to help make informed decisions.”

Charles Bernard, corporate operations vice president for Walgreens, commented, "With the Medicare population growing rapidly each day, more and more people age 65 and older — and disabled people — are seeking personalized care from our community pharmacists and can benefit from having Walgreens as part of a preferred pharmacy network, which offers greater access to pharmacy services and cost savings on prescription drugs."

Savings is what Humana is highlighting in its co-branded Medicare Part D plan with retail giant Walmart. The companies tout the two-year-old Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan, which has grown by more than 50% over the past year and has almost 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled, as one of the nation's lowest-cost Part D options.

The plan's features include one low monthly plan premium of $18.50 a month for beneficiaries in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., regardless of where they live; in-store co-pays as low as $1 for generic drugs after deductible when plan members fill their prescriptions at the more than 4,400 Walmart, Sam's Club or Neighborhood Market pharmacies; mail-order co-pays via Humana's RightSource Rx Pharmacy as low as $0; and a wide prescription drug offering, with more than 1,500 generic medications.

"Walmart has helped nearly 1.5 million seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries save money on their medications so they can ultimately live healthier lives," stated John Agwunobi, M.D., president of Walmart's Health and Wellness Division. "We pioneered a low-cost, national Medicare Part D program with Humana two years ago, which continues to offer one of the lowest premiums available. This year, we have joined additional plans as a preferred pharmacy as well, allowing us to provide our affordable prescription services to more seniors than ever before."

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