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Rx chains start to gear up for ACA educational push

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NEW YORK — Walgreen Co. and CVS Caremark Corp. are conducting outreach campaigns to educate consumers about health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act.

CVS Caremark’s effort will include in-store events, brochure displays and online information at

Walgreens is engaged in a national initiative with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). It centers on a new website — — that discusses the new benefits and how to purchase insurance. Brochures will also be offered to customers at nearly all Walgreens stores.

Other pharmacy chains have said they are still formulating plans on how they will focus their ACA education efforts.

Health Mart owners are being provided with key information and outside resources to help educate pharmacists and staff on the law, notes a spokeswoman for the McKesson Corp. franchise. Health Mart stores are independently owned and operated, allowing each store to have its own unique approach to supporting patients through the ACA rollout and transition process.

Additionally, owners were invited to learn more about the ACA from health care expert Jon Kingsdale — a leading contributor to the statute — during the Public Policy Forum at McKesson’s recent ideaShare trade show.

John Fegan, vice president of pharmacy at Bi-Lo Holdings LLC, says the BI-LO and Winn-Dixie food/drug combination store chains operated by the company are committed to helping consumers navigate the new system.

“We’re going to step up and do what we did during the rollout of Medicare Part D by giving our customers as much information as we possibly can,” he notes. “At this point, there are still a lot of things that the federal government needs to clarify, but we’re prepared to have our pharmacists help patients understand the options that are available to them under the ACA.”

Helena Foulkes, chief health care strategy and marketing officer at CVS Caremark, commented that the company has a “tremendous opportunity to help Americans understand the new health care law and how it affects them, so consumers receive the coverage that best fits their families.”

As states prepare their insurance exchanges for open enrollment beginning this fall, a new survey from CVS Caremark shows that while there has been an overall increase in awareness of the ACA, many of those eligible for coverage are asking for help.

The poll results, based on a sample of over 1,000 people, found that general awareness of the ACA has increased to 74%, up from 57% two years ago. However, the survey found that 36% of respondents likely to enroll through the exchanges need more information and help in evaluating the process.

Perceptions about cost remain the biggest barrier to the likelihood of enrolling, and lack of knowledge could prove costly: Only 48% of those who are eligible for a subsidy believe that they are.

The survey also found that pharmacies will be a primary resource to meet the needs of uninsured Americans, with 68% of respondents expecting retail pharmacies to offer health insurance information in stores or online.

Among those asking for help, Hispanics new to the country and the youngest group surveyed (ages 18 to 35) were significantly more likely to say they need help understanding the exchanges.

“Even among the 50 million Americans who were uninsured in the last year, most filled at least one prescription,” said Foulkes. “Pharmacies hold the key to educating the public about their health care options and helping them on their path to better health.”

The partnership between Wal­greens and Blue Cross and Blue Shield is intended to give consumers easy access to the information that is needed to understand the changing health care landscape in their own neighborhoods.

“Walgreens is a trusted community resource for health and wellness information, and through this collaboration we hope the millions of Americans who will be entering the marketplace in October are more informed and better prepared,” said Brad Fluegel, the chain’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer.

“There’s a lot of confusion, a lot of questions, and it’ll take a tremendous, collaborative effort to make sure people have the information they need to make informed choices.”

Maureen Sullivan, BCBSA’s senior vice president of strategic services and chief strategy officer, noted that while the ACA will expand access to health insurance for millions and broaden benefits, “many Americans have had little experience purchasing health coverage and are confused about what the law means to them.

“Blue Plans have been working hard to help consumers navigate this new environment and the coverage options that are available to them. Our partnership with Walgreens is another example of our commitment to ensuring that all Americans have the tools they need to understand these changes and access affordable health insurance coverage that meets their needs.” will serve as a comprehensive guide to the law so that consumers can make informed health care choices this fall. Included in the website are explanations of what the new law means for consumers as well as answers to frequently asked questions about eligibility for federal financial assistance, the individual mandate and the penalties for not purchasing insurance.

The site will explain the enrollment process and how the exchanges will work, and will provide interactive links to a glossary of terms related to health care reform.

Under the ACA, state health insurance exchanges — where uninsured and underinsured Americans can shop for coverage — go into effect on October 1, and most Americans will be required to have health insurance by January 1, 2014, or face tax penalties, according to the so-called individual mandate.

An estimated 7 million people will purchase private plans through the exchanges in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and 9 million will get coverage through broader Medicaid eligibility. The CBO predicts that the number of uninsured Americans will drop from 56 million to 31 million by 2016.


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