The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has teamed up with leading retail pharmacy chains to inform consumers about new Medicare benefits available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care reform law.

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, Medicare, drug chains, retail pharmacy chains, CVS/pharmacy, MinuteClinic, CVS Caremark, Helena Foulkes, Walgreens, Walmart, Thrifty White Pharmacy, Sam's Club, Take Care Clinic, Medicare health benefits, Affordable Care Act, ACA, health care reform law, Debbie Garza, prescription drug spending, doughnut hole, coverage gap, preventive health care services, primary care, Annual Wellness visit

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Drug chains, HHS spotlight new Medicare benefits

August 15th, 2012
Kathleen Sebelius

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has teamed up with leading retail pharmacy chains to inform consumers about new Medicare benefits available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care reform law.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that her department has partnered with CVS Caremark, Walgreens, Thrifty White Pharmacy, Walmart and Sam's Club to provide Medicare beneficiaries with educational materials on newly available preventive services and alert them to savings on prescription drug spending in the "doughnut hole" coverage gap.

Sebelius made the announcement at a CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic in Jacksonville, Fla., where she had her blood pressure checked to demonstrate one of the new preventive health care services available to Medicare recipients at no additional cost under the ACA.

Also at the CVS/MinuteClinic location, Sebelius talked with seniors and health care providers at the pharmacy about the health reform law's added benefits, including the 50% discount on prescriptions in the doughnut hole as well as primary care services such as free blood pressure readings, wellness visits and cancer screenings.

"Our pharmacy partners are helping their customers make informed health care decisions," Sebelius stated. "These partnerships will help people with Medicare learn more about new preventive services such as mammograms, and the new Annual Wellness visit that are available at no charge for everyone with Medicare."

CVS said Wednesday that to help boost awareness of the new Medicare benefits, CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic distributed 750,000 brochures and printed 30 million messages on register receipts for customers over age 65. There also were 1.4 million visits to the information on the CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic websites and another 100,000 impressions on the CVS/pharmacy Facebook page. Overall, the company has 7,300 CVS/pharmacy stores and 600 MinuteClinic locations.

"CVS Caremark is committed to helping people on their path to better health by providing expert guidance, new solutions to reduce health care costs and more convenient access to pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who are important advocates and trusted advisors for consumers," stated Helena Foulkes, executive vice president and chief health care strategy and marketing officer for CVS Caremark. "We were very happy to have Secretary Sebelius see for herself the vital role CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic play in putting quality health care right around the corner for millions of Americans."

Walgreens said it's distributing information about the new Medicare health benefits in its nearly 8,000 pharmacies and more than 360 Take Care Clinic locations, as well as using in-store announcements and providing that information as part of its Walgreens Way to Well Health Tour with AARP.

The drug chain noted that its pharmacies offer direct billing to Medicare Part B and Part D, administration of Medicare-covered immunizations, and prescription drug plan reviews by Walgreens pharmacists. All Take Care Clinics also now provide the Welcome to Medicare Preventive Visit and Medicare Yearly Wellness Visits, which include screenings for common conditions plus education and counseling to encourage wellness and prevent disease.

"With a Walgreens pharmacy within three miles of nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population, we are well-positioned to not only inform Medicare beneficiaries of these new features but also to provide access to these valuable health care services," Debbie Garza, divisional vice president of government relations at Walgreens, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Thrifty White Pharmacy is providing customers with information on the new preventive services in Medicare through its 85 drug stores in North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. And HHS said it's working with Walmart and its Sam's Club warehouse club subsidiary to provide health care information to their shoppers online.

HHS added that other pharmacies or partners can find information online on how to work with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to educate consumers about the newly available Medicare health benefits.