Rep. Paul Tonko (D., N.Y.) visited a Rite Aid drug store in Schenectady, N.Y., through the National Association of Chain Drug Stores' RxImpact pharmacy tour program.


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Congressman tours Rite Aid wellness store

August 22nd, 2013

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – Rep. Paul Tonko (D., N.Y.) visited a Rite Aid drug store in Schenectady, N.Y., through the National Association of Chain Drug Stores' RxImpact pharmacy tour program.

The congressman toured the store Wednesday to get a better idea of community pharmacy's role in health care as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) moves toward implementation.

"The pharmacies are a big part of the health care equation and the wellness equation," Tonko told The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, which covered the tour.

Rite Aid had recently converted the Schenectady location to its "wellness store" format. The concept features a more prominent pharmacy presentation; broader clinical pharmacy services, including a private consultation room and immunizations; expanded merchandise offerings centered on wellness, such as gluten-free and organic food; and a "wellness ambassador" to assist customers and act as a bridge to the pharmacy.

Pharmacies' sharpened focus on wellness reflects a key goal of the ACA: promoting preventive health care, Tonko noted. "Wellness programs and the fact that they are adjusting and restructuring a lot of their marketing and offerings that lean towards wellness is important," he said in the Daily Gazette article.

Tonko said the pharmacy tour also helps him gauge how people are responding to and preparing for the implementation of the health care reform law. He added that he aims to continue a dialogue with pharmacies and pharmacists because they have their ear to the ground in the communities.

"They are front-liners in health care. We can learn from them," he said in the article.

Lou Ann Obernesser, pharmacy district manager for Rite Aid, emphasized the accessibility to health care that community pharmacists provide.

"The one big thing about the pharmacy is you have a health care provider that you do not need to pay to see," she told The Daily Gazette. "You can ask them any kind of questions. They are almost always available while the store is open."

Rite Aid had 797 wellness stores overall as of the end of its 2013 fiscal year in early March. Plans call for another 400 stores to be remodeled to the wellness concept in fiscal 2014.

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