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Return of Tylenol

BY Michael Johnsen

FORT WASHINGTON, Pa. — There’s a lot of talk this year about the return of some venerable brand names in the OTC aisles, particularly Tylenol. But if the soft launch of McNeil Consumer’s Children’s Tylenol serves as any kind of barometer, the return of the brands will be a big deal. Without the expected marketing hype this fourth quarter, annualized sales of Children’s Tylenol were up 31.8% to $51.4 million, securely resuming its claim as the best-selling children’s fever reducer for the 52 weeks ended June 16 across total U.S. multi-outlets, according to IRI.

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Chains work to educate prospective ACA patients

BY Alaric DeArment

One of the biggest problems with the healthcare reform law is that a lot of people out there don’t fully understand it.

To educate the general public about the law, a few organizations have come up with simple, online tools aimed at dispelling the confusion.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released last month an animated video designed to help people understand the changes to the healthcare system that the law will bring. The video, titled "The YouToons Get Ready for Obamacare" and written and produced by former ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson, explains the changes in how Americans will get coverage and the costs starting next year.

A Kaiser poll back in April found that 42% of Americans were unaware that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is still on track to be implemented, though the Obama administration last month said it would allow a key provision of the law, the requirement for employers to help employees obtain coverage, wait until 2015.

A survey last month by CVS Caremark also found knowledge gaps about the law. The survey found that general awareness of the Affordable Care Act had increased to 74%, up from 57% in a 2011 survey. But 36% of respondents who were likely to enroll in health exchanges needed more information and help in evaluating the insurance exchange process.

More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) said they expected retail pharmacies to offer health insurance in stores or online. In an effort to fill the information gap, CVS Caremark will roll out a company-wide information and outreach program to help customers gain access to critical health insurance marketplace information, including retail events, brochure displays and online at CVS.com/insurance.

"We have a tremendous opportunity to help Americans understand the new healthcare law and how it affects them so consumers receive the coverage that best fits their families," CVS Caremark EVP and chief healthcare strategy and marketing officer Helena Foulkes said.

Another educational effort comes from Walgreens and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The national campaign centers on a website, LearnAboutReform.com, which offers consumers information about the ways they can purchase health insurance and the benefits available to them.

"Many Americans have had little experience purchasing health coverage and are confused about what the law means to them," Blue Cross Blue Shield SVP strategic services and chief strategy officer Maureen Sullivan said. "Blue companies have been working hard to help consumers navigate this new environment and the coverage options that are available to them. Our partnership with Walgreens is another example of our commitment to ensuring that all Americans have the tools they need to understand these changes and access affordable health insurance coverage that meets their needs."

The website includes easy-to-understand explanations of what the law means for consumers; answers to questions about eligibility for federal financial assistance, the individual mandate and penalties for not purchasing insurance; an explanation of the enrollment process and how health insurance exchanges will work; and an interactive glossary of terms related to the law.

"Walgreens is a trusted community resource for health-and-wellness information, and through this collaboration, we hope the millions of Americans who will be entering the marketplace in October are more informed and better prepared," Walgreens SVP and chief strategy officer Brad Fluegel said.

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ACA delays concern patients, opponents

BY Alaric DeArment

Of all the policies to come out of the Obama administration, few have caused more controversy and greater uncertainty than healthcare reform.

Passed and signed into law in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is designed to address the tens of millions of Americans who lack healthcare coverage, and it is expected to add more than 30 million new patients when it takes full effect. Following a legal challenge to the law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that one of its key elements, the individual mandate, did not violate the Constitution.

Now, however, the law has hit another speed bump as the administration allowed a one-year delay in another key part of the law, the requirement that employers provide health insurance for employees or pay a penalty. Originally set to take effect next year, it has been put off until 2015. Experts have said that the delay could significantly reduce the number of people lacking insurance who will gain it next year. At the same time, a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll from June found up to 77% of respondents ages 18 years to 25 years old considered health insurance "very important," with almost two-thirds concerned about paying medical bills for serious illnesses and accidents, and 44% concerned about paying for routine care.

Some groups, notably the National Retail Federation, already had called for the full implementation of the law to be delayed. In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, NRF VP and employee benefits counsel Neil Trautwein, said that his group had "consistently" opposed the law and retailers had "serious concerns" about it. "Our nation, particularly employers, cannot afford for the ACA to stumble out of the starting gate," Trautwein said. "We fear that as time diminishes between June 2013 and January 2014, a cascade of additional last-minute regulations will create added confusion and could encourage more employers to back out of coverage."

But while some employers may cheer the delay, it will likely come as a disappointment for patients who had been counting on receiving coverage. In announcing that 17 health insurers had joined the state health insurance exchange, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the approved 2014 rates even for the highest-tiered plans — plans on the state exchange will be tiered as Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum — would be 53% lower compared to last year’s direct-pay individual rates, not including the effects of federal financial assistance for people meeting certain income thresholds. And while healthcare costs per capita in New York are 18% higher than the national average, the new rates would be in line with the nationwide average previously forecast in a report by the Congressional Budget Office.

"New York’s health benefits exchange will offer the type of real competition that helps drive down health insurance costs for consumers and businesses," Cuomo said. "The opportunity to choose among affordable, quality health insurance options will mean improved health outcomes, stronger economic security and better peace of mind for New York families."

According to a Truven Health Analytics study, the healthcare reform law will add 6 million Americans to Medicaid and 21 million to affordable insurance exchanges. New York and Los Angeles are likely to see the largest absolute increases in Medicaid rolls, while large increase are also likely to occur in the Texas cities of Houston, San Antonio and Austin as the number of uninsured Americans is expected to drop from 49 million in 2012 to 27 million in 2016.

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