UPDATE 1/16: Walgreens and Express Scripts are in a Twitter war. Seriously.
We’re not really surprised when we hear about Lindsey Lohan or Kim Kardashian feuding with someone on Twitter. But when it’s two giant, publicly traded companies, we just have to say, “C’mon girls. Get it together.”
I wrote the post below in December about Walgreens and Express Scripts fighting over prescription drug coverage and how hard it is going to be for Express Scripts patients to find a pharmacy to fill prescriptions after hours. Things are only getting worse in this very public spat.
—–Original Post Below——
Leave it to “the man” to make your life a little bit tougher this holiday season. You may have heard in the news that certain health insurance plans and Walgreen’s drugstores are in conflict. They are basically having a big disagreement about whether Walgreen’s will be able to fill prescriptions for patients from certain health insurance plans.
In general, health insurance companies don’t actually manage their own prescription drug programs. They do it the good ‘ol American way. The outsource it.
The companies they outsource to are called PBMs – Pharmacy Benefit Managers. In the case of Walgreen’s versus Anthem Health Insurance, a part of Blue Cross & Blue Shield, it is technically Express Scripts (Anthem’s PBM) that has the beef with Walgreen’s.
I have received mail from Anthem essentially stating that as a medical provider with Anthem, I should prescribe any medication to pharmacies that are NOT Walgreen’s, like CVS, or the pharmacies in Safeway, or other places.
The problem I see, and called them about, is where to prescribe medicine if it’s after hours, like in the middle of the night. If you have a trip to the ER, and they prescribe medication like antibiotics or pain medicine, then you may have to pick it up after 10 p.m.
You’ll love this – Anthem told me that I should prescribe to a local CVS pharmacy that’s open 24 hours. The closest ones are in Greenbrae (16.7 miles north of San Francisco), Burlingame (15.6 miles south of San Francisco), or Walnut Creek (24.8 miles east of San Francisco).
So, if you have no car, you’re screwed. Public transportation will not get you to Burlingame in the middle of the night. Time to hunker down for a long night of pain or attempting to comfort your sick child.
If you’re a single mom or dad, and you need to get antibiotics for your kid’s ear infection, and you have other kids at the ER with you, and you’re lucky enough to have a car, well then, the entire family gets to take a midnight field trip to these locations! This is a great opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of healthcare reform or to point out the 3-4 local Walgreen’s that are open 24/7 in San Francisco that you’ll be passing by on your way out of town.
So, how do you make lemons out of lemonade or stop yourself from “occupying” a park?
I would suggest:
- Making sure that if you’re on chronic, repeat medication, like thyroid replacement or insulin, to start hoarding a 30-60 day supply.
- Asking the ER before you’re discharged for some extra medicine to last you until the “not Walgreen’s” drug stores open the next morning.
- Fight “the man” and write a letter to Walgreen’s, Express Scripts, Anthem, your Congress person or whoever. Let them know that they owe you gas money and free anti-anxiety medication for all your troubles. I’m sure it won’t lead to much, but you never know.
- Call the local media outlets and get an “On Your Side” news story produced about how the big corporations are more concerned about profit than their customers driving around or going without medication in the wee hours of the night.
In terms of where to put your money, I would suggest that you can go short or go long on these stocks via options.
If this disagreement continues, my gut feeling is that CVS and Express Scripts/ ESRX will do better, and Walgreen’s/WAG will not. You can go “long” on CVS and ESRX, and “short” on WAG. The reverse is true, maybe, if Express Scripts comes to an agreement with Walgreen’s.
Please note that I’m a mere plastic surgeon, and NOT an options or stock or investment guru, so I would consider this financial strategy with not just a grain of salt, but with an entire truckload of salt taken directly from a salt mine.