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Kansas City, Mo., coalition saves nearly $11 million in healthcare costs

BY Alaric DeArment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A value-based benefits project saved a group of employers in Kansas City, Mo., nearly $11 million in direct healthcare costs.

The Kansas City Collaborative, or KC2, launched a project focused on giving employees and their dependents access to better health information, reducing barriers to preventive care, engaging them in reducing health risks and accessing earlier treatment of chronic disease. Led by the Mid-America Coalition on Health Care, the project included 15 local employers and about 400,000 area employees and their dependents.

"The Kansas City Collaborative employers are to be commended for recognizing the importance of investing in the health and wellbeing of their employees and making benefit design decisions based on data," MACHC president and CEO Christine Wilson said. "By implementing a value-based approach to health benefit design, this group of employers has been able to better address worker health and productivity while also lowering overall healthcare costs."

Employers participating in KC2 include H&R Block, Hallmark Cards, Spring, the University of Kansas Hospital Authority, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and others.

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OneRiot joins @WalmartLabs experiment

BY Gail Hoffer

BRISBANE, Calif. — Wal-Mart Stores marked a major investment in social media and marketing with the announcement Wednesday that its technology unit @WalmartLabs has acquired mobile and social advertising firm OneRiot.

Befitting its interest in social media, @WalmartLabs shared the news via blog post, noting that the Boulder, Colo.-based OneRiot "has developed some pretty nifty technology that analyzes social media signals from popular networks like Twitter and Facebook to deliver ads that are relevant to consumers’ interests. As our teams debated the finer points of Big Data, Fast Data, and machine learning technologies, it became clear to us that we could find no better colleagues than the guys at OneRiot."

Under the terms of the agreement, OneRiot will relocate and become part of the @WalmartLabs team this month.

"The technology at the core of what we do is the social genome, which enables us to connect millions of consumers with the best products based on their interests at any given moment. The OneRiot technology will enrich the social genome, and the OneRiot team adds to the already deep expertise we have around social data analysis," the blog stated.

Wal-Mart Stores has been heavily investing in social and mobile commerce since April when it acquired the services of Kosmix a Mountain View, Calif.-based company to grow its multichannel strategy. Kosmix’s founders Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman were tapped to lead the newly formed @WalmartLabs that was created to support Walmart’s global multichannel strategy, which integrates the shopping experience between brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce. Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman are early pioneers of online shopping, whose first company, Junglee, was acquired by Amazon.com in 1998.

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Walgreens motions to stay ESI suit pending arbitration

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — Walgreens on Thursday morning argued for its motion to stay an Express Scripts suit filed against the Chicago-based pharmacy on Sept. 7, pending arbitration.

In its lawsuit, Express Scripts contends that Walgreens is actively recruiting patients and seeks immediate relief from Walgreens’ informing patients that the company’s 7,760 stores will not be part of the Express Scripts pharmacy network at the top of the year.

"We confirm that Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager, filed a lawsuit against Walgreens in the federal court in Chicago to stop Walgreens from making certain communications to our patients and the public," Tiffani Washington, Walgreens spokeswoman, shared with Drug Store News in an email. "We think that it is important to inform our patients and the public how this may impact their ability to fill prescriptions at Walgreens next year if Express Scripts serves as the pharmacy benefit manager for their particular healthcare plans; and we regret that Express Scripts has resorted to litigation in an effort to stop us. We obviously intend to vigorously defend against their suit."

"[Express Scripts] now wants to stop Walgreens from truthfully telling its patients that after Jan. 1, 2012, Walgreens plans to be out of the [Express Scripts] pharmacy network," Walgreens stated in court documents filed Thursday morning. "So 10 weeks after Walgreens began giving patients the facts and just a few weeks before what [Express Scripts] terms the ‘critical’ Medicare Part D open enrollment period begins on Oct. 15, … [Express Scripts] sued."

In the original Sept. 7 filing, Express Scripts charged Walgreens with false advertising and breach of contract. "The Pharmacy Provider Agreement gives Walgreens access to over 60 million Express Scripts members, including approximately 2.5 million Medicare Part D members," Express Scripts stated. "In exchange for this access, Walgreens agreed to dispense pharmaceuticals to Express Scripts members at negotiated discounted rates and agreed, among other things, that it would not attempt to disenroll any Express Scripts member and or market, promote or prefer any Medicare Part D plan over another plan, including those offered by Express Scripts."

Walgreens countered on Sept. 12 that the same PPA Express Scripts alleges is being violated requires that all disputes between the two parties must be resolved through binding arbitration. "[Express Scripts] disregarded the broad arbitration clause it agreed to and brought its claims in the wrong forum."

Walgreens argued Thursday that "the court should not reward [Express Scripts] belated attempt to muzzle Walgreens in contravention of the parties’ agreement to arbitrate, and should grant Walgreens’ motion to stay pending arbitration." If Express Scripts thought it had a claim, the pharmacy benefit manager should have filed a demand for arbitration months ago, Walgreens stated. "Instead, [Express Scripts] chose to sit on its claims and then race into court months after it could have initiated arbitration. [Express Scripts] should not be permitted to turn its self-serving refusal to act into an ’emergency’ requiring this court’s intervention."

"Unless preliminary injunctive relief is issued immediately, Express Scripts will suffer irreparable harm to its reputation, good will and customer base," Express Scripts stated in court documents filed Wednesday. "But if Walgreens is awarded the stay it seeks here, an arbitrator will not even be appointed to hear this dispute for several weeks, if not months. This would deprive Express Scripts of even the opportunity to obtain meaningful relief to prevent irreparable harm."

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