If you thought Obamacare was the only assault on our healthcare system seeking to get in the middle of your relationship with your healthcare providers, think again. There is a dangerous consolidation of government power being considered by the Obama Administration through the merging of two mega health care companies that could lead to price spikes and reduced patient care for prescription medicines.
A proposed merger between Express Scripts and Medco, two of the largest Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) if approved by the Obama Administration would dominate the market with control over 30% of annual prescriptions processed – both retail and mail order and about 80% in the private sector market, according to certain analysts. This mega-PBM will have tremendous market power and growing political influence, enabling them to squeeze the health care system at the expense of patient choice, access and service.
If you get your prescriptions filled at your local Walgreen’s drugstore then you already know that on January 1 Walgreen’s dropped their relationship with Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager that administers prescription benefits for insurance companies, large employers, federal and state government. Walgreen’s is using a free market solution to keep the customers who had used Express Scripts by dropping the annual fee form their own prescription savings club. Over 200,000 Walgreen’s customers have signed up so far in 2012. This should only come as a surprise to a Washington bureaucrat because we know the free market is the best solution to meeting people’s healthcare needs.
The merger would result in fewer choices for employers, in an already consolidated market, seeking a pharmacy benefit manager and cost savings for their health care plans. It would also mean fewer choices for patients who prefer – and depend on – community pharmacies for their prescription medication and other health care services. As we can see with the Walgreen’s example, patients don’t need pharmacy benefit managers making their decisions for them.
If you want to ask your pharmacist a question, you better be prepared to right him a letter, because Express Scripts and Medco want to push as many customers as possible to mail orders, regardless of your preference. Patients deserve the right to choose their pharmacy provider and whether or not to opt into a mail order program. According to the 2011 Atlantic Information system data, combining both companies’ mail order programs would concentrate almost 60 percent of the mail order market in their hands, further creating an incentive to force patients to utilize costly, un-monitored, unsafe and unreliable mail order pharmacy.
Limiting free market choices will not only cost us as patients, but it will cost us as taxpayers.
An Express Scripts/Medco merger could be damaging to Medicare Part D drug beneficiaries, who rely on competition to keep costs low. We pay for it. State level, employee-sponsored and other health plans could also see a rise in health care costs. We pay for it.
The Bottom Line – Express Scripts’ Stance Is Not In The Best Interests Of Patients, Employers & Health Care In America.
Congress and the Federal Trade Commission should prevent a merger that will create an unfair playing field for pharmacy and health care providers and that will ultimately dilute patient care and restrict patient access to critical pharmacy care.
For more information and how to get involved visit http://preservingcommunitypharmacy.com/