When I was at a CVS recently, I noticed a “Health Insurance Information Center” display near the front of the store. It contained a variety of literature including “Affordable Care Act Answers”, a guide to the key components of the new law, along with brochures from insurance plan partners. This is just one example of the many ways that retail pharmacies large and small are contributing to consumer knowledge about healthcare reform. Amid the controversy, confusion, and delays surrounding the Affordable Care Act in recent weeks, it’s great to see that pharmacy chains are stepping up to furnish some solid and objective information.
A review of the websites for many Rx retailers revealed that they are working hard online to provide their customers with clear details about the new law. From what I can see so far, they are doing a great job. Walgreens has implemented a “Get Informed – Get Insured” partnership with Go Health, an online health insurance portal. On the CVS website, the colorful graphics almost make insurance seem like fun (notice I said “almost”…!) Much of the material is presented in a highly interactive manner with tools that allow consumers to calculate subsidy eligibility, estimate penalties for non-enrollment, and find CVS-preferred health plan partners. Supermarket pharmacies are disseminating ACA information online as well; Kroger has complete list of FAQ’s; Safeway and Albertsons provide direct links to the healthcare exchange website.
The human element: pharmacies function as learning centers for the Affordable Care Act
Many retailers are further connecting with consumers by using their stores as education sites. Giant Eagle is encouraging customers to attend one of the many information sessions being held at selected retail locations. At CVS “Project Health” in-store events, consumers can now talk to independent educators and healthcare plan representatives in addition to getting free screenings for blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and other conditions. Rite Aid is offering free Affordable Care Act counseling at its stores. And it isn’t just the big retailers that are getting involved. Navarro, which operates 35 stores in South Florida, has had insurance agents and licensed providers on hand to guide customers and their families to needed information.
The common denominator that I see among all of these communications is clarity: just the facts, presented in a straightforward and user-friendly manner. Add to that the accessibility factor ─ nearly all (93%) of Americans live within 5 miles of a community pharmacy outlet and the average distance to a retail pharmacy is 1.26 miles* ─ and you have a good foundation for getting information into a lot of people’s hands when they need it.
*Source: NCPDP Pharmacy Files and NACDS Economics Department 2010, from NACDS