Paying up front

Dave Bartlett
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Most independent pharmacists to refuse Blue Cross cards

The majority of independently owned pharmacies in the province will no longer automatically reimburse Medavie Blue Cross customers for prescriptions after Wednesday.

Most independent pharmacies won't accept the Blue Cross card, and therefore people with them will have to pay for their prescriptions up front and submit the receipts to the insurance company.

Pharmacist Robert Doyle works in his dispensary at the Theatre Pharmacy in downtown St. John's. Doyle is vice-president of the Council of Independent Community Pharmacy Owners. - File photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

The majority of independently owned pharmacies in the province will no longer automatically reimburse Medavie Blue Cross customers for prescriptions after Wednesday.

Most independent pharmacies won't accept the Blue Cross card, and therefore people with them will have to pay for their prescriptions up front and submit the receipts to the insurance company.

The Council of Independent Community Pharmacy Owners (CICPO) sent a letter to the insurance company about its intentions after Blue Cross notified drug stores it will impose a new unilateral agreement on how much pharmacies are reimbursed for drugs.

According to CICPO, the move could affect thousands of people in this province.

Blue Cross members will still be able to get their drugs at independent pharmacies if they don't mind paying up front.

CICPO vice-president Robert Doyle told The Telegram Monday Blue Cross' decision came with little or no notice just before Christmas.

"It caught us off guard," he said. "At one point, we used to say, 'It's too bad that the other (insurance) companies couldn't be more like Blue Cross.'"

Doyle said the company used to always be fair in its negotiations with small pharmacies.

He said Blue Cross would traditionally begin negotiations a few months before an old contract was set to expire.

While some Blue Cross contracts with independent pharmacies in this province ended Friday, others won't end until later this year.

But Doyle said whenever they end, the pharmacies will have a "new unilaterally decided contract imposed" on them.

He also said the new contracts seem to target smaller, independent pharmacies as opposed to chain drug stores.

On top of that, Doyle contends the new formula Blue Cross will use will ignore the provincial Department of Health's published price list for drugs.

"What Blue Cross are coming and saying is ... we're not going to go by what the government has dictated by law in this province."

And he said Blue Cross told CICPO that if pharmacies continue to submit claims on behalf of their customers, the drug stores would be agreeing to the new terms.

That's why Doyle said CICPO decided to take action.

He said CICPO is upset both that a new agreement wasn't negotiated and that pharmacies could lose money if they sign on.

"We see it as a real attack on the viability of rural (and) inner city pharmacies and also the communities we serve," he said.

And Doyle thinks Blue Cross may be attempting to "divide and conquer" the smaller pharmacies across Atlantic Canada.

On Saturday, The Times & Transcript newspaper in Moncton, N.B. reported independent pharmacies in that province also had a new agreement imposed on them by Blue Cross.

The Telegram asked Blue Cross for an interview, but was unable to speak with anyone before its deadline.

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Blue Cross, Council of Independent Community Pharmacy Owners, Department of Health The Times & Transcript

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Moncton

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Apples
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Blue Cross sucks!!!!

    This is just another case of Big Insurance screwing the little guy (pharmacies and customers).

  • Julia
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Blue Cross CEO wasn't happy with his measly $8m Christmas bonus this year (his neighbour got $9m), so come on people, surely you can sympathize with these cost cutting measures.

  • turk
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    It is really good to see the independent standing up to the Blue Cross Giant. Most of us have independent pharmacies who support and sponsor our comminities. Tell me the last time you saw a sports jersey on one of our small community sports teams with Blue Cross on it. Where are we going to get or meds if we loose are community pharmacies. Most of the small communities in the province have lost their banks and post offices already because of big corporate policies. Small stores and businesses support your community and events. Lets support these pharmacies and tell the big insurance company to try and be fair or get out of our province

  • Jerry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    I really sympathize with the independent pharmacies who are being squeezed by this move of Blue Cross. I own a Blue Cross policy myself and also sell them, and I know how it works: collectively, as policyhokders, we pay for every claim made, plus a significant markup for administration, so any attempt by the carrier to limit the rapidly-escalating cost of drugs will serve to limit our future premium increases. I'm sure most of us wouldn't object to that...

  • Patton
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Two days ago my local pharmacy told me that they were hit with the same unfair actions by Blue Cross. We customers are really stuck and large corporate coverages from large companies will be stuck doing very expensive paperwork for their new volume of employee claims. This is disgraceful and we should be supporting our pharmacies against the Blue Cross actions.

  • Manuel
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Thankfully i dont have Blue Cross. I had sense and got a real insurance company.These huge companies like this are only concerned about profit. It has nothing to do with providing good health or easing the burden on people who pay their saleries and huge bonuses.

  • Marie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    WOW! What a week for people in the province that has arthritis. First to losing of a rheumatologist and now this with Blue Cross. People wih Rheumatoid Arthrtis now has to come up with $5,000.00 upfront a month just for one drug. This also effects alot of cancer patients that has to pay the high prices for medications. Something needs to be done as this has turned into an emergency state. I have RA and seeing a rheumatologist for 6 years now and I have insurnace but luckly it is not Blue Croos. I realy do pitting the people out there that have to suffer becuase of the developments of this week.

  • Wayne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Good for the independent pharmacists ! This is just another example of a huge company trying to dictate to people. I also suggest that the pharmacists point out that there are competitors to Blue Cross who have different ways of operating. I'm sure that they would be happy to have the business

  • john
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    I think the comments here are a little heated perhaps. Everyone is jumping on the blue cross like lions on a deer. Does anyone really know what changes blue cross is making? why dosn't the article detail why the pharmacies don't like it.

    To me, there are people who hate insurance companies for no good reason, other than they think they are living high on the hog. Meanwhile, a lot of people don't realize how well they have it by being able to have insurance coverage. Your premiums pay for your claims!!! Would you drive a car without insurance? NO! Would you buy a house and not have insurance? NO! Wayne, why are premiums high at your company? check your claims for the last year and your answer may be in there(other companies will probably do the same thing to you after year one).

    If a lot of people never had insurance to protect their incomes, we would be in a lot worse shape. I pay over $600 a month for insurance on 2 cars, health and dental, disability, home insurance, critical illness coverage...do i like it? not at all. But am i glad i have it? indeed! if i got sick, got into an accident or needed to see the dentist, i am covered.

    Stop thinking about about the small picture and look a little further than your noses people. Know the facts of stories before you shoot your mouths off about something. You give yourself credibility when you know what you are talking about, rather than just assuming

  • Heather
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Having to go to the Payment Centre is a real inconvenience. My mother, who is 77, frail and very hearing impaired, has no transportation, finds it very stressful. Where does Blue Cross get the power to dictate how much pharmacies will be reimbursed? They must want to own the pharmacies and have the druggists as their employees. Outrageous

  • Bob
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    This is a money grab by Blue Cross. It's like mail in rebates at the big box stores. They know that there is a certain percentage of people that will either forget, loose receipts or not bother mailing in the claim. They count on that to make more money. They even have a formula to estimate how much they will gain from it!

  • Anita
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Jerry from NL did you bother read the above comments ? Elderly with no transportation... $5,000 up front for some medicine... company costs will increase for paperwork (being passed back down to the employees no doubt) all in the name of greed. Kick Blue Cross out of the province entirely and we'll see what costs them more. Maybe they'll smarten up.

  • Cross Blue Crosser
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    My employer switched to Blue Cross a few years ago, much to the dismay of its employees. We were told it was a more affordable insurance company and it was..in the 1st year, but since then Blue
    cross has increased our premiums and are covering less. Lately when I need to use the service(which is thankfully not often) I usually have to pay up front and then I have to go to the payment center...the bunch in there are just like the Gustapo, Customer service is non existant, it's almost as if they smile or actually be nice it is an automatic cut in pay. Speaking of pay...I say get rid of the pay center and do direct billing...has to be more cost effective, and keep premiums down. I received a letter from my employer about a month ago indicating the premuims are going up for 2010 but they are Actively and Aggressively seeking a new Insurance provider. Sooner the better I say

  • Old Salt
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    I think that the prices being charged for drugs are a real rip off. This is especially true for old established drugs that have been on the market for years. The cost of research and testing has been recouped long, long ago and so price adjustment is warranted. Is it possible I wonder that the CICPO isn't just trying to put the squeeze on the pharmacies' greed for even higher profits by saying that there is a limit to what they can pay without having to raise customer insurance premiums. You know it's the customer who has to ultimately pay the bottom line.

  • Apples
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Blue Cross sucks!!!!

    This is just another case of Big Insurance screwing the little guy (pharmacies and customers).

  • Julia
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Blue Cross CEO wasn't happy with his measly $8m Christmas bonus this year (his neighbour got $9m), so come on people, surely you can sympathize with these cost cutting measures.

  • turk
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    It is really good to see the independent standing up to the Blue Cross Giant. Most of us have independent pharmacies who support and sponsor our comminities. Tell me the last time you saw a sports jersey on one of our small community sports teams with Blue Cross on it. Where are we going to get or meds if we loose are community pharmacies. Most of the small communities in the province have lost their banks and post offices already because of big corporate policies. Small stores and businesses support your community and events. Lets support these pharmacies and tell the big insurance company to try and be fair or get out of our province

  • Jerry
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    I really sympathize with the independent pharmacies who are being squeezed by this move of Blue Cross. I own a Blue Cross policy myself and also sell them, and I know how it works: collectively, as policyhokders, we pay for every claim made, plus a significant markup for administration, so any attempt by the carrier to limit the rapidly-escalating cost of drugs will serve to limit our future premium increases. I'm sure most of us wouldn't object to that...

  • Patton
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    Two days ago my local pharmacy told me that they were hit with the same unfair actions by Blue Cross. We customers are really stuck and large corporate coverages from large companies will be stuck doing very expensive paperwork for their new volume of employee claims. This is disgraceful and we should be supporting our pharmacies against the Blue Cross actions.

  • Manuel
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Thankfully i dont have Blue Cross. I had sense and got a real insurance company.These huge companies like this are only concerned about profit. It has nothing to do with providing good health or easing the burden on people who pay their saleries and huge bonuses.

  • Marie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    WOW! What a week for people in the province that has arthritis. First to losing of a rheumatologist and now this with Blue Cross. People wih Rheumatoid Arthrtis now has to come up with $5,000.00 upfront a month just for one drug. This also effects alot of cancer patients that has to pay the high prices for medications. Something needs to be done as this has turned into an emergency state. I have RA and seeing a rheumatologist for 6 years now and I have insurnace but luckly it is not Blue Croos. I realy do pitting the people out there that have to suffer becuase of the developments of this week.

  • Wayne
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Good for the independent pharmacists ! This is just another example of a huge company trying to dictate to people. I also suggest that the pharmacists point out that there are competitors to Blue Cross who have different ways of operating. I'm sure that they would be happy to have the business

  • john
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    I think the comments here are a little heated perhaps. Everyone is jumping on the blue cross like lions on a deer. Does anyone really know what changes blue cross is making? why dosn't the article detail why the pharmacies don't like it.

    To me, there are people who hate insurance companies for no good reason, other than they think they are living high on the hog. Meanwhile, a lot of people don't realize how well they have it by being able to have insurance coverage. Your premiums pay for your claims!!! Would you drive a car without insurance? NO! Would you buy a house and not have insurance? NO! Wayne, why are premiums high at your company? check your claims for the last year and your answer may be in there(other companies will probably do the same thing to you after year one).

    If a lot of people never had insurance to protect their incomes, we would be in a lot worse shape. I pay over $600 a month for insurance on 2 cars, health and dental, disability, home insurance, critical illness coverage...do i like it? not at all. But am i glad i have it? indeed! if i got sick, got into an accident or needed to see the dentist, i am covered.

    Stop thinking about about the small picture and look a little further than your noses people. Know the facts of stories before you shoot your mouths off about something. You give yourself credibility when you know what you are talking about, rather than just assuming

  • Heather
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    Having to go to the Payment Centre is a real inconvenience. My mother, who is 77, frail and very hearing impaired, has no transportation, finds it very stressful. Where does Blue Cross get the power to dictate how much pharmacies will be reimbursed? They must want to own the pharmacies and have the druggists as their employees. Outrageous

  • Bob
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    This is a money grab by Blue Cross. It's like mail in rebates at the big box stores. They know that there is a certain percentage of people that will either forget, loose receipts or not bother mailing in the claim. They count on that to make more money. They even have a formula to estimate how much they will gain from it!

  • Anita
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    Jerry from NL did you bother read the above comments ? Elderly with no transportation... $5,000 up front for some medicine... company costs will increase for paperwork (being passed back down to the employees no doubt) all in the name of greed. Kick Blue Cross out of the province entirely and we'll see what costs them more. Maybe they'll smarten up.

  • Cross Blue Crosser
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    My employer switched to Blue Cross a few years ago, much to the dismay of its employees. We were told it was a more affordable insurance company and it was..in the 1st year, but since then Blue
    cross has increased our premiums and are covering less. Lately when I need to use the service(which is thankfully not often) I usually have to pay up front and then I have to go to the payment center...the bunch in there are just like the Gustapo, Customer service is non existant, it's almost as if they smile or actually be nice it is an automatic cut in pay. Speaking of pay...I say get rid of the pay center and do direct billing...has to be more cost effective, and keep premiums down. I received a letter from my employer about a month ago indicating the premuims are going up for 2010 but they are Actively and Aggressively seeking a new Insurance provider. Sooner the better I say

  • Old Salt
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    I think that the prices being charged for drugs are a real rip off. This is especially true for old established drugs that have been on the market for years. The cost of research and testing has been recouped long, long ago and so price adjustment is warranted. Is it possible I wonder that the CICPO isn't just trying to put the squeeze on the pharmacies' greed for even higher profits by saying that there is a limit to what they can pay without having to raise customer insurance premiums. You know it's the customer who has to ultimately pay the bottom line.