Walgreens-BCBS contract could impact city workers

MORGAN CITY — With the deadline less than two months away to come to a compromise, an agreement between BlueCross BlueShield’s pharmacy administrator and Walgreens Pharmacy on a contract renewal has not been resolved.

Shelley LeBlanc of Paul’s Agency in Morgan City, the city’s insurance carrier, told the city’s Health Insurance Committee during its monthly meeting Tuesday that as of last week, Walgreens and Express Scripts have not reached an agreement.

Their contract expires at midnight on Dec. 31.

“If at the end of this contract … if they have not reached … an agreement, Walgreens will be pulling out of BlueCross’ network,” LeBlanc said.

If that does happen, though, LeBlanc said that those who use Walgreens will receive plenty of notice.

“BlueCross is going to bombard your members with information if that does happen,” she told the committee.

If no agreement is reached, members will be forced to find another pharmacy in the network or pay the retail values for their medications at Walgreens.

“So it’s definitely going to be advantageous for them to find another pharmacy,” LeBlanc said. “They can definitely get the same care that they’re getting now from other establishments.”

LeBlanc said it’s possible that a final decision will not be made until the last minute.

“Can it go down to the wire?” she asked. “Yes, it can. I have gotten calls at midnight saying they’ve reached an agreement.”

She said negotiations between insurance companies and the pharmacies typically begin six to nine months before the renewal date.

“Basically, in most situations (including this one), BlueCross does have the upper hand,” LeBlanc said. “They write the majority of the state and we want them to play hardball. We don’t want them to give in and just pay whatever to providers, because they’re (providers) always going to ask for a raise. Heck, who doesn’t want a raise? But they need to keep it in relation to what other providers are being paid and ultimately, if they pay them more money, it’s you and I that are going to be paying for that increase.”

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