Express Scripts launches new initiative to expand rural health care access through partnerships with independent pharmacies

Express Scripts announced key efforts to expand access to health care in rural communities through partnerships with independent pharmacies across the U.S.
  • Increases reimbursement rates for independent pharmacies in rural communities
  • Offers more pharmacy services to strengthen pharmacists’ essential role in delivering care
  • Convenes the industry’s first Independent Pharmacy Advisory Committee

ST. LOUIS, Mo., April 20, 2023 – Express Scripts, the pharmacy benefits management (PBM) business of Evernorth, a subsidiary of The Cigna Group (NYSE: CI), today announced key efforts to expand access to health care in rural communities through partnerships with independent pharmacies across the U.S. The new IndependentRx Initiative will offer increased reimbursement opportunities and additional care services to rural independent pharmacies – and create an Independent Pharmacy Advisory Committee to expand the role of rural, suburban and urban pharmacies in the health care system. These steps build on Express Scripts’ recently announced actions to further evolve the PBM model and drive greater medication affordability for the 100 million Americans the company serves.

The IndependentRx Initiative is expected to benefit thousands of independent pharmacy partners across the country and will expand significantly over time.

“One in five Americans live in rural areas, yet less than 10 percent of physicians practice in those locations – creating critical access gaps. Independent pharmacists often can close those gaps as the front lines of care in their local communities,” said Adam Kautzner, Pharm.D., President of Express Scripts. “That’s why we’re committed to leveraging and supporting the clinical expertise of pharmacists who want to do more for their patients. By deepening our partnership, together we will remove barriers to care, reduce total medical costs and improve vitality, community by community across the U.S.”

Increasing reimbursements for rural independent pharmacies

Express Scripts will increase reimbursements to pharmacies that are independently owned and unaffiliated with a drug wholesaler in areas with only one pharmacy within 10 or more miles from an Express Scripts customer. This includes enhancing performance- and incentive-based programs that pay pharmacies more when they drive better outcomes, such as prescribing 90-day supplies of prescription drugs that improve adherence. In addition, all independent rural pharmacies will have increased opportunities to participate in Express Scripts’ retail pharmacy networks.

Expanding pharmacy care services to drive growth

Express Scripts, in collaboration with other Evernorth Health Services businesses, will increase access to certain routine, preventive and chronic care services at independent pharmacies – driving new business growth opportunities for pharmacy owners and providing convenient care options for consumers. This includes reimbursing independent pharmacists for a variety of health screenings, testing and clinical services, such as:

  • COVID-19 and other routine vaccinations
  • Trainings to empower pharmacists to recognize and combat substance use disorders, including opioid addiction and naloxone administration
  • Additional prescriptions for acute infections
  • Acute condition testing (i.e., influenza, strep A, A1C)
  • Lifestyle counseling, such as nutrition and smoking cessation
  • Annual behavioral health screenings

“Independent pharmacies already add value beyond dispensing medications – and they can do even more. We need to ensure rural communities have access to the same quality, affordable care as those living in densely populated communities. Where you live shouldn’t dictate the type of care you receive or how long you have to wait for it,” Kautzner added.

Enhancing engagement with new independent pharmacy advisory committee

To fully realize the vision and potential of this initiative, Express Scripts will establish the industry’s first Independent Pharmacy Advisory Committee. The newly established committee will convene a diverse group of pharmacy leaders across rural, urban and suburban areas – all focused on continuing to drive competitive reimbursement practices, learning from each other’s business models, and creating new solutions that leverage independent pharmacists to alleviate provider shortages across the health care delivery system. 

“Partnership is in our DNA because it helps achieve better outcomes for the people we serve,” Kautzner said. “That’s exactly our goal with this committee. By bringing together a differentiated set of perspectives and expertise, we’ll unlock new innovation opportunities and accelerate a sustained commitment to pharmacies and patients across the country.”

About Evernorth Health Services 

Evernorth Health Services creates pharmacy, care and benefits solutions to improve health and increase vitality. We relentlessly innovate to make the prediction, prevention and treatment of illness and disease more accessible to millions of people. Evernorth capabilities are powered by our businesses, including Express Scripts, Express Scripts® Pharmacy, Accredo, eviCore and MDLIVE, along with holistic Evernorth platforms and solutions that move people and organizations forward. All Evernorth solutions are serviced and provided by or through operating affiliates of Evernorth Health, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Cigna Group (NYSE: CI), or third-party partners. Learn more at


This press release, and oral statements made in connection with this release, may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements are based on Cigna's current expectations and projections about future trends, events and uncertainties. These statements are not historical facts. Forward-looking statements may include, among others, statements concerning future financial or operating performance, including our ability to (i) expand access to health care in rural communities, through partnerships with independent pharmacies (ii) offer increases reimbursement opportunities and additional care services to rural independent pharmacies, (iii) drive greater medication affordability for the 100 million Americans we serve, (iv) remove barriers to care, reduce total medical costs and improve vitality community by community across the U.S., (v) increase reimbursements to pharmacies that are independently-owned, (vi) enhance performance- and incentive-based programs (vii) increase access to certain care services at independent pharmacies and (viii) drive new business growth opportunities for pharmacy owners and providing convenient care options for consumers; and other statements regarding Cigna's future beliefs, expectations, plans, intentions, liquidity, cash flows, financial condition or performance. You may identify forward-looking statements by the use of words such as "believe," "expect," "project," "plan," "intend," "anticipate," "estimate," "predict," "potential," "may," "should," "will" or other words or expressions of similar meaning, although not all forward-looking statements contain such terms.

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