The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is partnering with several retail pharmacy operators to help educate consumers about newly available Medicare benefits.

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, CVS/pharmacy, Jacksonville, retail pharmacies, pharmacy operators, Walgreens, Walmart, Sam's Club, Thrifty White Pharmacy, Medicare, Affordable Care Act, Medicare benefits, annual wellness visit, doughnut hole, coverage gap, prescription drug spending, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS, MinuteClinic, Helena Foulkes, health care, Take Care Clinics, Greg Jacobson

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Inside This Issue - News

HHS taps power of pharmacy

August 27th, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is partnering with several retail pharmacy operators to help educate consumers about newly available Medicare benefits.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (l.) meets with Helena Foulkes of CVS/pharmacy at the drug chain's store in Jacksonville, Fla.

The program was announced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a CVS/pharmacy location in Jacksonville, Fla.

Retail pharmacies participating in the initiative include, besides CVS/pharmacy, Walgreen Co., Walmart and its Sam’s Club division, and Thrifty White Pharmacy, an employee-owned chain of 85 pharmacies based in Plymouth, Minn.

“Our pharmacy partners are helping their customers make informed health care decisions,” said Sebelius. “These partnerships will help people with Medicare learn more about new preventive services such as mammograms and the new Annual Wellness visit that are available at no charge for everyone with Medicare.”

The new benefits have been created through the Affordable Care Act and include a free Annual Wellness visit to discuss health concerns with the Medicare patient’s doctor as well as a wide variety of preventive tests and screenings, most of which will carry no out-of-pocket cost for the patient.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is working with CVS and its other retail partners to build consumer awareness of the new benefits and services available as well as of savings on prescription drug spending in the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” coverage gap.

This year, if a patient reaches the coverage gap, he or she will receive a 50% discount on covered brand name drugs. Over the next 10 years Medicare patients will receive additional prescription savings until the coverage gap is closed in 2020, assuming the Affordable Care Act remains in effect.

For their part, CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic have distributed 750,000 brochures and printed 30 million messages on register receipts for customers over 65. In addition, information posted on the CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic websites has been accessed 1.4 million times, while the CVS/pharmacy Facebook page has received another 100,000 impressions.

“CVS Caremark is committed to helping people on their path to better health by providing expert guidance, new solutions to reduce health care costs and more convenient access to pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who are important advocates and trusted advisors for consumers,” said Helena Foulkes, executive vice president and chief health care strategy and marketing officer for CVS Caremark, who met Sebelius at the Jacksonville store.

During her visit to the outlet Sebelius had her blood pressure monitored at the store’s MinuteClinc to illustrate the importance of preventive services.

“We have a number of screening programs available to help Americans reduce high blood pressure and are focusing our efforts on improving the identification, treatment and management of high blood pressure,” said Paulette Thabault, chief nurse practitioner officer for MinuteClinic. “Knowing whether you have hypertension and how to properly manage this health condition, including important lifestyle modifications, is the first step in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.”

According to the company, CVS is exploring possible future collaboration opportunities with CMS, including training and educational ­counseling.

As part of CMS’ network of retail pharmacy partnerships, Walgreens is distributing information in its nearly 8,000 pharmacies and more than 350 Take Care Clinics, in addition to providing the information as part of its Walgreens Way to Well Health Tour with AARP. Walgreens pharmacies currently offer an array of services to Medicare patients, including direct billing to Medicare Part B and Part D; administration of immunizations covered by Medicare and prescription drug plan reviews by Walgreens ­pharmacists.

In addition, Walgreens’ Take Care Clinics provide the Annual Wellness visits and the Welcome to Medicare Preventive Visit for Medicare enrollees. These services include screenings for a number of common conditions plus education and counseling to further wellness and disease prevention.

Thrifty White is providing information on preventive services at all of its 85 locations in the Midwest. CMS is also working with Walmart and Sam’s Club to enable them to provide health care information to shoppers online.