Posts Tagged 'health insurance'

CVS stirs up controversy

Many RetailWire panelists agreed with my point of view about CVS and its announced policy to charge a higher health care premium to employees who do not disclose health and weight issues. Beyond the legal aspects of privacy policies lies the broader issue of whether this is smart PR for a company in the healthcare business. Here’s my opinion:

I understand the merits of a healthier population bringing down the cost of health care and insurance, but in this case and similar ones the real issue is privacy. The punitive aspect of the policy (the extra $50 premium per month) might or might not stand up to the privacy guidelines in HIPAA and other legislation — somebody with more expertise would need to weigh in (so to speak) on that subject.

Does CVS intend merely to punish employees who don’t subject themselves to the health screenings, or do they plan to provide incentives (in the form of lower premiums) to those who lose weight, manage their cholesterol, and otherwise improve their health profile? I’m skeptical on the second possibility.


You’re in good hands with Walgreens?

One of many RetailWire discussions about new strategic initiatives at Walgreens. This time, it centers on their plan to enter the health insurance market, whether as a “clearinghouse” or as a provider. Here’s my opinion:

I have mixed feelings about this, assuming Walgreens wants to provide a “portal” for consumers to shop from providers like Aetna and Humana rather than underwriting policies itself. On the one hand, this move would strengthen Walgreens’s reach into all things health-care related (along with its acquisition of earlier this year). On the other hand, Walgreens still has a lot of work to do in order to bring greater health-related focus to its brick-and-mortar stores. (Not to mention, making the sorts of physical upgrades you can see at remodeled Duane Reade locations in Manhattan.) Will insurance be a distraction or a reinforcement of the mission?


Walmart: Pharmacy powerhouse just got stronger

Pharmacy programs administered through traditional employer-sponsored health insurance programs will need to find more ways to be cost-competitive, now that Walmart is moving into the mail-order pharmacy business. The $4 generic-drug template already turned the business on its ear a few years ago, and competitors like Target and Walgreens were compelled to follow suit. The mail-order program should also draw more traffic to Walmart’s website and could drive more purchases into shoppers’ carts.

This continues to be good news for consumers, even though it may not be good news for high-margin pharmaceutical providers. Walmart has proven in business after business that its low-cost and low-margin formula is a market share winner.