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CVS Caremark settles PBM suit

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark announced on Thursday that it has agreed to pay at least $38.5 million to settle a multi-state consumer protection investigation from 2004 of certain alleged PBM business practices of its legacy AdvancePCS and legacy Caremark subsidiaries.

CVS Caremark stated that, in entering the settlement, it has expressly denied any and all allegations and there has been no finding of wrongdoing or inappropriate business conduct on its part. It noted that the probe is similar to multi-state consumer protection investigations of other major PBMs.

The company’s AdvancePCS (now known as CaremarkPCS) and Caremark subsidiaries have entered into a settlement agreement and consent order with 28 states and the District of Columbia.

The states claimed that Caremark encouraged doctors to switch patient medications in order to save money, but did not let the doctors know that Caremark would keep the savings and patients or their health plans might pay more, according to Vermont attorney general William Sorrell. Sorrell noted in a statement that Vermont will receive more than $1.1 million from the settlement.

Under the settlement, CVS Caremark will pay $12 million on behalf of legacy AdvancePCS, $10 million on behalf of legacy Caremark, $16.5 million in state investigative costs and up to $2.5 million as reimbursement for certain medical tests.

The amounts to be paid were previously accrued for by legacy Caremark in prior fiscal periods so the settlement will not impact the 2008 financial results of the company.

The consent order requires AdvancePCS and Caremark to maintain certain PBM business practices and, according to CVS Caremark, will not result in significant changes to current business practices.

The other states participating in the settlement are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

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President Bush signs $168 billion economic stimulus bill

BY Adam Kraemer

WASHINGTON Still feeling some of the effects of a slower-than-normal holiday period, retailers got another boost Wednesday as Pres. George W. Bush signed into law a $168 billion economic stimulus bill.

“I know a lot of Americans are concerned about our economic future,” Bush said at a White House bill-signing ceremony. “Congress passed a really good piece of legislation.”

The measure, crafted largely by treasury secretary Henry Paulson and leaders of the House of Representatives, includes approximately $117 billion in rebate checks, tax breaks for businesses and measures aimed at easing the current mortgage market issues, according to published reports.

The president also voiced his appreciation for the members of both houses for their restraint regarding the temptation to add extra measures to the bill. “Members resisted the temptation to load up this bill with unrelated programs or unnecessary spending, and I appreciate that,” Bush said.

Last week, the National Retail Federation applauded Congress when the Senate approved their version of the House bill—with a few changes, including the addition of rebates for more than 20 million senior citizens and disabled veterans. “Expanding the rebate checks to include retirees and disabled veterans is a win-win strategy,” NRF senior vice president for government relations Steve Pfister said. “Retirees and veterans not only deserve a check, but are also among those most likely to spend the rebates so that this money gets put to work in the economy right away.”

Under the plan, individuals will receive $300 to $600, while couples will get $1,200. The full rebate, however, is limited to individuals earning $75,000 or less and families making up to $150,000. The rebates are expected to begin showing up in consumers’ mailboxes in May.

An unexpected boost in retail sales last month pushed stocks higher Wednesday and fueled hopes that the economy may avoid a recession, Dow Jones reported. The stimulus is expected to give a big push to consumption, greatly benefitting the retail sector. “Timeliness is essential, and we agree with economists who say the fastest way for stimulus to enter the economy is through the consumer,” Pfister said.

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CVS Caremark receives Pioneer Award for employer-assisted housing

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON Homes for Working Families, a national nonprofit organization focused on improving home affordability, has announced that CVS Caremark was one of 14 award recipients of the 2008 Pioneer Awards for leadership in employer-assisted housing.

CVS Caremark was recognized for its employer-assisted housing program Prescriptions for Homeownership launched in Washington in 2005, and in Los Angeles in 2007. So far, it has helped more than 50 employees close on their homes. The company plans to expand the program to Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit this year.

“We’re proud to be able to help our employees take their first big steps toward homeownership,” stated Steve Wing, director of workforce initiatives for CVS Caremark. “Innovative programs such as Prescriptions for Homeownership provide us the opportunity to support our workforce, promote employee recruitment and retention, and improve the communities in which we do business.”

Immediately following the Feb. 11 award event on Capitol Hill, representatives from CVS Caremark and Harley-Davidson Motor Co., another award recipient, participated in a congressional staff briefing hosted by the National Housing Conference titled “Employer-Assisted Housing: Expanding Opportunities for Homeownership, Business and Community Development.” The briefing provided insights into employer programs and local implementations, as well as information on pending federal legislation that would provide federal tax credits to employers offering EAH programs.

Other recipients of the 2008 Pioneer Awards included the City of Seattle, John Hopkins University, The Schwan Food Co., and the University of Chicago and University of Chicago Medical Center.

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