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More retailers join UnitedHealthcare’s Pharmacy Saver

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MINNETONKA, Minn. — A leading discounter and several large supermarket chains have joined UnitedHealthcare’s Pharmacy Saver Medicare Part D program.

A leading discounter and several large supermarket chains have joined UnitedHealthcare’s Pharmacy Saver Medicare Part D program.

The health insurer said Monday that Target Corp., H.E. Butt Grocery Co., Hy-Vee Inc., Publix Super Markets Inc. and Delhaize USA’s Food Lion, Bloom, Harveys and Sweetbay Supermarket chains are now participating in Pharmacy Saver, doubling the number of pharmacy locations in the Medicare prescription drug plan.

Pharmacy Saver was launched in late November with The Kroger Co., Safeway Inc. and Prescription Solutions, a UnitedHealthcare mail-order pharmacy, as the participating pharmacy providers, offering plan members more than 3,000 pharmacy locations nationwide. The new retailer participants lift the total number of participating pharmacy locations to over 6,000, covering 49 states and Washington, D.C.

According to UnitedHealthcare, Pharmacy Saver is designed to reduce members’ immediate costs on prescriptions bought at participating pharmacies to prices even lower than their co-payments, sometimes as low as $2 for a 30- or 90-day supply. The program applies to hundreds of prescription drugs, including eight of the top 10 generic drugs most commonly used by UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare plan members.

"The rapid growth of Pharmacy Saver is a direct reflection of our commitment to finding new ways to bring important cost-savings benefits to our members," Tom Paul, chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, said in a statement. "We’re pleased the addition of these new retailers will give even more members the opportunity to save money on their prescriptions next year."

UnitedHealthcare’s Pharmacy Saver made its debut just weeks after Walmart and Humana Inc. unveiled a co-branded Medicare prescription drug plan.

Announced Oct. 1, the Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan offers one monthly plan premium of $14.80 regardless of where patients live, which the two companies report is the lowest national plan premium in 2011 for a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan premium offered in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Walmart reported that the plan drew its first enrollee in mid-November.

Meanwhile, traditional drug store chains — including Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid — have been offering senior citizens a variety of in-store and online tools as well as the counsel of their pharmacists as they examine Medicare Part D plans and weigh their options. Medicare beneficiaries have until Dec. 31 to enroll in a prescription plan.

Next year, many current Medicare prescription drug plans won’t be available because of the health care reform law. Walgreens recently reported that according to research firm Avalere Health, about 3 million Medicare beneficiaries will need to pick another plan for 2011.

Among the positive changes brought by health care reform, seniors will take less of a hit when they reach their Part D coverage gap, or "doughnut hole." Starting Jan. 1, drug makers will provide a 50% discount on branded drugs, and the government will provide a 7% discount on generics for those who fall into the doughnut hole. That comes on top of the $250 rebate, effective this year, for beneficiaries who reach the coverage gap.


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