HMSA lauds Wal-Mart’s sale of cheaper generic drugs
The isle insurer backs the Florida move but is unclear how it will affect members here
Hawaii's largest health plan is watching with great interest as the world's largest retailer slashes prices for some generic prescription drugs.
"Regardless what the ins and outs are, it's a positive move they're making," said Ron Taniguchi, Hawaii Medical Service Association director of pharmacy management.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. started selling generic drugs yesterday for as little as $4 for a month's supply in 65 Wal-Mart, Neighborhood Market and Sams' Club pharmacies in Florida's Tampa Bay area.
The company said it would expand the program throughout Florida in January and roll it out to other states next year.
Target Corp., which has no stores in Hawaii, announced it would match Wal-Mart's lower prices in the Tampa Bay area.
Taniguchi said the program was touted in media reports as greatly reducing Florida's Medicaid costs. "That means they will be processing prescriptions at that (low) cost to the payer as well. If that's true, there will be a lot of winners on that."
He said HMSA supports Wal-Mart's action because it has supported generic drug use for many years and "this is only going to improve that."
Wal-Mart said it would cut prices for almost 300 generic prescription drugs, including some of those most commonly used to treat diabetes and high blood pressure.
How the company's program will work for HMSA members isn't clear yet, Taniguchi said, noting that the association has plans with different co-pays for generic prescription drugs.
The most common plan has a $5 co-payment, he said. "If so, the member will be paying a lower co-pay." But some members have a $3 generic co-pay, and some as low as $2, he said.
HMSA has a contractual rate with all pharmacies, he said. Generally, if the charge is lower than the contractual rate, the lower price holds up, he said.
But he said it's hard to generalize because there are too many unknowns. It will depend on how the pharmacies process the prescriptions, he said. All the drugs involved haven't been announced yet, he added.
"At this point, we're trying to evaluate what the impact is going to be across all our different plans."