December 29, 2011

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Prepares for a Network without Walgreens

As of today, Express Scripts and Walgreens have not reached an agreement on their contract that expires Dec. 31, 2011. Because they still have not reached an agreement, we are preparing for Walgreens to leave the pharmacy network beginning Jan. 1, 2012, and we are encouraging our members to prepare as well.

Blue Cross contracts with Express Scripts, an independent pharmacy benefit manager, to administer pharmacy benefits. Express Scripts' job is to negotiate nationwide contracts with pharmacies like Walgreens on behalf of health plans and employer groups. Express Scripts takes the responsibility of negotiating the best possible agreements with all providers very seriously. We have every confidence in Express Scripts to negotiate arrangements that are in the best interests of our customers and their pharmacy benefits.

We are deeply disappointed that Walgreens has announced that it does not plan to participate in Express Scripts' pharmacy network. It's a fact that healthcare costs continue to rise. We hope that Walgreens will remember this fact, fall in line with its competitors and work with Express Scripts to provide consumers quality service at an affordable price. As an advocate for our members, we stand behind all reasonable attempts to slow the rise of healthcare costs. For this reason, we have taken every opportunity to support Express Scripts and their efforts in coming to a resolution that is in the best interest of our members.

As of this date, Walgreens still maintains their decision to leave the network. However, if they should change their position and come to an agreement with Express Scripts - before or after their contract expires - we would be pleased to count Walgreens as a network pharmacy.

Members Affected
Statewide, there are approximately 512,000 fully-insured members of Blue Cross and HMO Louisiana with benefits administered by Express Scripts. All fully-insured Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana plans use Express Scripts to administer pharmacy benefits. However, there are some self-insured groups who carve out pharmacy benefits to another pharmacy benefit manager on their own.

On average, there is another pharmacy within one-half mile of a Walgreens location. Blue Cross has been reaching out to its members who have used the pharmacy within the last three months and giving them information on how to find and switch to another pharmacy. Additionally, Express Scripts has worked with other network pharmacies to provide many of our members a special offer to transfer their prescriptions to another nearby pharmacy.

Members whose benefits are administered by Express Scripts will continue to receive benefits at a Walgreens pharmacy until Dec. 31, 2011. But, beginning Jan. 1, 2012, members who fill prescriptions at Walgreens will pay more out-of-pocket and out-of-network benefits will apply.

Emergency Situations
To find a nearby network pharmacy that provides 24-hour service, members may go to www.express-scripts.com and enter their zip code. If there is an emergency requiring 24-hour access, and no other pharmacy in the area offers this service, members in need of medication for pain relief due to a new injury or condition may use a Walgreens pharmacy, pay full price for their prescription, and submit the claim for reimbursement. Members can consult their benefit plans for more details.

More information may be found on Blue Cross' website at www.bcbsla.com/facts.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Founded in New Orleans in 1934, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is the oldest and largest Louisiana-based health insurance company. Blue Cross is a private, fully taxed mutual company, owned by policyholders—not shareholders—and governed by a local Board of Directors. It is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

The company provides group and individual health insurance plans, life and disability insurance, group voluntary products and administrative services to more than 1.3 million members. With headquarters in Baton Rouge and eight district offices, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana employs more than 1,900 Louisianians who are committed to improving the lives of its customers by providing them with health guidance and affordable access to quality care.

Learn more on the company's website at www.bcbsla.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bluecrossla. Follow Blue Cross on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BCBSLA and CEO Mike Reitz at www.twitter.com/MikeReitzCEO.