Gaps in healthcare are all too common, especially in rural communities, where the nation’s staffing shortage of physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals is especially critical. Rural areas in the United States make up about 97% of the land area and are home to 17.9% of the total U.S. population, an estimated 60 million people. Yet less than 10% of physicians work in rural settings. Rural hospitals and other care facilities are also scarce, and becoming more so: In the last 11 years, 136 rural hospitals closed, and many more are at risk.
This shortage of medical professionals and facilities means that community and independent pharmacies are often the first line of care in many communities. Express Scripts, the pharmacy benefits management arm of Evernorth, is dedicated to ensuring that our members have convenient access to pharmacy care and affordable medications. Together, we have partnered with independent and community pharmacies to help create a robust, stable independent pharmacy marketplace. Despite other healthcare staffing shortages, the number of independent pharmacy locations has grown nearly 10% over the past decade. Read on to learn a few of the ways that we’re working with pharmacies in the communities we serve to deliver on our mission.
Helping Independent Pharmacies
Express Scripts is not connected to a specific retail pharmacy. Instead, our network includes independent pharmacies, retail chain drug stores and many mail delivery options, which ensures that the majority of people we serve have convenient access wherever they live. We work closely with employers, health plans, labor unions and other clients to customize their networks based on their member demographics and ensure those living and working in rural communities do not face the burden of traveling a long distance to pick up their medications.
We partner with numerous independent pharmacies in all communities to create our national network of more than 65,000 locations across the U.S. We recently announced key efforts to expand access to health care in rural communities through partnerships with independent pharmacies. 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.
We look to our network pharmacies to do more than dispense medications. We recognize them as the front lines of the health care system and key partners in managing patients’ health in many communities. We have worked diligently over the last few years to make sure that pharmacies are properly set up and reimbursed for their support of COVID-19 vaccinations and COVID-19 testing services, and will continue to invest in pharmacy services that will help members gain access to medical services provided in retail pharmacy settings, such as prescribing, point of care testing, and medication administration services.
Express Scripts Pharmacy Comes to You – Wherever You Are
For more than 35 years, our home delivery pharmacy has been focused on getting people the medications they need safely, quickly, and accurately. Prescriptions are delivered straight to a member’s home, work, or school – wherever needed. Patients have 24/7 access to pharmacists with condition-specific experience and training who counsel patients on the safe and effective use of their medications and other ways to manage their conditions.
“An individual’s geographic location need not be a barrier to safe, affordable pharmacy care,” said Adam Kautzner, President of Express Scripts, the PBM division of Evernorth Health Services. “We are partners in patients’ health care journey, no matter where they live. Not only do a vast majority of Express Scripts members live within a short drive of an in-network pharmacy, members can opt for free home delivery of medicines to all 50 states from Express Scripts Pharmacy. Our top priority is the health and safety of our patients, and we offer multiple channels for the highest quality of pharmacy care.”