Markets at Work

It’s amazing how well health markets work when third-party payers aren’t involved:

Janis McGannon has heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A few months ago she accepted an offer from a nurse at the Bay Street Pharmacy near her home in Sebastian, Fla., to join a new “healthy heart” program at the pharmacy.

At a meeting of the program’s participants, Theresa Tolle, a pharmacist and the owner of Bay Street, gave a talk to about a dozen customers about cholesterol: what it is, how it works and how it can be managed. After everyone was weighed and measured, they received a goody bag that included a pedometer to encourage them to walk 10,000 steps a day.

In between monthly meetings, McGannon, 74, logs onto a website to record what she’s eating and how much she’s walking. Tolle and the nurse e-mail her regularly to check on her diet or offer tips to keep her on track. Medicare doesn’t cover the $20 monthly fee for the program, but McGannon thinks it’s worth it.

In recent years, both independent and chain pharmacies have come under pressure from mail-order pharmacy services, in part because some insurers require that their members get their drugs through the mail. (In 2009, mail-order prescriptions made up 6.6 percent of all retail prescriptions, according to the national association of chain drug stores.) Drug chains and mass-market retailers such as Walmart have fought back with some success, offering $4 generic prescriptions, for example, and 90-day supplies.

Walgreens and CVS Caremark also have programs.

Comments (6)

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  1. Ian Kodanik says:

    The problem clearly is third-party payers who know more about our health and the required wellness treatments than we do; or is it that they know best how to make money off our illnesses, and any improvement in our wellness is an accidental byproduct of keeping their bottom line healthy? Methinks the latter is the proposition.

  2. Brian Williams. says:

    I’m sure the government will find a way to disrupt this type of thing.

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    In years to come the labor intensive tasks of following patients (and helping manage their conditions) could be outsourced to India. Telemedicine has the potential to revolutionize the monitoring of chronic diseases. Your doctor could incorporate this into his or her practice or your pharmacy could do this.

  4. Joe Barnett says:

    Concierge pharmacy: Sounds like a more effective approach than requiring pharamists to counsel patients or to generate documentation purporting to show that customers were offered counseling.

  5. Anne Alice says:

    Can anyone tell me why so many people love controlling their own money in everything but healthcare? We shop for other insurance and services and wouldn’t have it any other way.

  6. Virginia says:

    I’m a little skeptical of how much a 74-year-old woman likes logging onto a website and recording her diet. But, I’m a little amazed that the woman pays $20 a month for the service. Maybe the story is not so much about controlling your own health dollars but of the marketing ability of this pharmacist.