Insurers ease pharmacy vaccine process
MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, Wash., and PORTLAND, Ore. Two health insurers in the northwest are taking steps to change the dynamics of preventive health reimbursement and broaden the role pharmacies play in flu vaccination efforts.
The two plans, Premera Blue Cross of Washington state and LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon, have announced new programs that both plans said will “remove barriers to care by providing improved access to common immunizations at pharmacies.”
In both cases, patients enrolled in either coverage plan can now simply present their membership card at a pharmacy to receive a vaccination. Both plans said they will cover immunizations for vaccines for seasonal flu, adult shingles or pneumococcal infections at discounted pricing through pharmacies.
“We want members to have convenient access to important, preventive immunizations,” said Ed Wong, who serves as VP pharmacy services for both plans. “Immunizations administered at pharmacies used to require members to pay the cost in full, and then fill out a paper claim for reimbursement. That meant more work for our members to be reimbursed.”
Among the pharmacies participating in one or both coverage networks are Bartell Drugs, Walgreens, Costco, Target, Rite Aid, Safeway, Fred Meyer and CVS pharmacies, according to Wong.
Both Premera and LifeWise are members of a group of companies based in Mountlake Terrace that provides health, life, vision, dental and other related products and services to more than 1.5 million patients.
Obesity costs U.S. employers billions, study finds
NEW YORK New research by Duke University found that obese workers cost U.S. employers $73.1 billion a year.
The researchers, led by Eric Finkelstein, deputy director for health services and systems research at Duke-National University of Singapore, used survey data from the 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the 2008 U.S. National Health and Wellness Survey to determine the extent to which obesity-related health problems affected absenteeism, work productivity and medical costs. Among those with a body mass index higher than 40, or roughly 100 lbs. overweight, these costs worked out to $16,900 per capita for women and $15,500 for men.
"Much work has already shown the high costs of obesity in medical expenditures and absenteeism, but our findings are the first to measure the incremental costs of presenteeism for obese individuals separately by body mass index and gender among full-time employees," Finkelstein said.
The study was published on Oct. 8 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Jewel-Osco enters flu prevention game
ITASCA, Ill. Supervalu’s Jewel-Osco stores announced a flu prevention program with vaccinations available in all locations with a pharmacy.
Jewel-Osco said its pharmacists will offer the traditional flu vaccine, the needle-free FluMist nasal spray and the new high-dose Fluzone for patients older than 65 years, during regular pharmacy hours.
The flu vaccine is available for $26.99 for either the traditional injection or FluMist. Fluzone HD is available for $59.99. The cost of these vaccines is covered by Medicare Part B and many commercial health plans, which means that many customers may not be incurring additional costs.