|By Stephen T. Watson, The Buffalo News, N.Y.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The region's major health insurers are making it easier for their members to have medications mailed or delivered to wherever they live.
The insurance companies are linking up with national mail-order firms, big drugstore chains and independent local pharmacies to provide the free service, which has been offered for years but is now more widely available and a focus of the companies' marketing efforts.
"The market is demanding that we offer this to our membership," said
The insurers say members and their employers increasingly want the option of mailed or delivered drugs, citing the convenience and savings.
But not everyone is sold on the value of mail-order or home-delivered drugs.
Independent pharmacists fear that the out-of-town, mail-order companies are a threat to their business. Others are skeptical that delivery will lead patients to stick better to a prescribed course of medication, and they believe patients are better served when they can meet face to face with a pharmacist.
"Do you go to mail order for your physician, or your dentist or anybody else?" said
Independent pharmacies were among the first to offer home delivery, for free, as an extra service and a way to compete with the larger chains. At
And the insurer offers home delivery through a contract with a network of community pharmacies. Whether they sign up for local home delivery through community pharmacies or out-of-town mail orders, members will pay 2 1/2 co-pays instead of the standard three co-pays for a three-month supply.
"It's a level playing field for both," said
BlueCross BlueShield, for its part, offers mail-order prescriptions through
Wegmans serves mail-order
Instead, he said, the service frees up its pharmacists to spend more time on clinical programs and patient counseling.
"We want to be a full-service pharmacy," said Coultry. "The store pharmacies still play a very critical role."
As with the other delivery options provided through the insurers and the independent pharmacies, Wegmans customers don't pay anything extra.