Will Amazon Pharmacy Impact Employer Health Insurance?

On Nov. 17, 2020, Amazon announced the much-anticipated launch of its new prescription fulfillment service. Dubbed Amazon Pharmacy, the offering permits users to purchase prescription medications using Amazon.com, a new convenience that may upend the pharmacy industry. It also includes free, two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members.

The announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. Aside from rising coronavirus cases throughout the country, Americans are more reliant than ever on digital marketplaces for their shopping needs.

How Does Amazon Pharmacy Work?

According to Amazon’s website, customers are required to sign up for Amazon Pharmacy and set up a profile by providing basic information. Users will be prompted to list current medications as well as health conditions or allergies that may conflict with prescriptions.

From there, users can contact their prescribing doctor or physician and the prescription will be processed soon thereafter. If users haven’t yet received a prescription, Amazon Pharmacy can make a request on their behalf.

Finally, once the prescription has been verified, Amazon Pharmacy will prompt users to elect to pay for their medication either with or without insurance. The prescription is then delivered in as early as two days for Prime members.

In addition, Prime members now have access to Amazon Pharmacy savings at more than 50,000 pharmacies throughout the country. These exclusive savings only apply when customers pay without insurance.

How Will Amazon Pharmacy Impact Prescription Costs?

Another key benefit Amazon Pharmacy offers is price transparency. Now, customers can easily review prescription costs with and without insurance included in the total. In many cases, the latter option is more inexpensive than the former—a key feature popularized by prescription drug platform GoodRx.

Combined with the added convenience of a reliable digital marketplace, This feature could be a trendsetter in an industry currently moving quickly to keep up with consumer shifts in behavior.

For example, in 2018, Aetna purchased CVS for $68 billion, which allowed Aetna to reposition itself as a holistic health management organization. Likewise, BenefitsPro reports that Walgreens may change up its model by teaming with other companies and adding partnerships to expand shopping options. CNBC reports that Amazon may even add pharmacies in Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh stores around the country, though this remains to be seen.

What Does This Mean for Employer-Provided Insurance?

More than anything, Amazon Pharmacy introduces another option for people to access affordable prescriptions. The key, however, really is access. Amazon Pharmacy offers intuitive tools for users to ask pharmacists about their medications, access prescription details, and review medicine order history all from their smartphone or computer.

Amazon Pharmacy accepts most major insurance plans. Users can add their insurance information when signing up for the service and are alerted if their plan is covered. There are some limits to what medications Amazon plans to carry. For example, the retailer will not deliver Schedule II controlled medications, including most opioids. Likewise, PillPack will remain a distinct service offered by Amazon Pharmacy for users with chronic medical conditions.

As employers prepare their employees for the new year, this new option presents an excellent opportunity for teammates to make the most of their health insurance benefits without ever leaving their house or apartment.

Source: Bernie Portal

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