Another CVS Caremark Bait and Switch?

The recent report by The Wall Street Journal that CVS Caremark’s Medicare Part D prescription drug plans have been charging seniors more than the company said it would fits a familiar pattern.

According to the Journal, in late 2009 CVS Caremark’s SilverScript plans were being marketed to seniors with brand name drug prices that were on average 4% lower than what the company ever planned on providing. CVS Caremark chalked the problem up to a computer error.

CVS Caremark appears to have erected bureaucratic hoops through which patients must jump to recoup the overcharge. The form apology letter makes no mention of a potential refund, the Journal reports, adding that one patient was told by a CVS Caremark phone rep that in order to get a refund he must file a “grievance” and document where he saw the more attractive prices in the company’s marketing material more than five months ago.

“The burden should not be on the beneficiary to prove that’s why they chose the plan,” Judith Stein of the Center for Medicare Advocacy said in the article. She called for either a full refund to consumers or for CVS Caremark to honor the advertised price for the full year.

CVS Caremark already socked seniors with a 21% premium increase for its SilverScript Value plan for the 2010 plan year, according to Avalere Health LLC. So, for some seniors, their deal with CVS Caremark went from bad to worse. (By contrast, the Community CCRx Basic plan actually reduced premiums slightly, the same report found.)

While unfortunate for the affected patients, the disappearing nature of CVS Caremark “savings” is not unprecedented.

Prior to launching a formal investigation into the company, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission heard from the Hausers of North Carolina in a meeting arranged by NCPA. CVS Caremark managed the Hausers’ Medicare drug plan and steered their prescriptions to CVS Caremark which, according to WCNC-TV Newschannel 36, resulted in increased costs and forced them into the coverage gap (or “doughnut hole”) sooner.

And, earlier this year, Change to Win documented how patients with prescription drug coverage administered by CVS Caremark (and provided through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program or FEHBP) face higher costs for generic drugs than uninsured patients. Specifically, the report found that FEHBP patients would pay more at CVS retail pharmacies for 85% of the generic drugs on CVS Caremark’s generic discount list for those without insurance.

2 Responses to “Another CVS Caremark Bait and Switch?”

  1. 1 Mark March 28, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Ever since March 20, 2012, per SilverScript Community CCRx PDP plan (and Medicare rules), my doctors have been urgently FAXing “EXPEDITED” medication “exceptions” to them at 866-868-0858. These two medications include the only blood pressure medication that’s controlled my pressure without unacceptable side effects. CCRx has been playing games ever since. With one rep, it’s “the doctor didn’t FAX the form,” which I know was untrue. Then, it was “have your doctor call us.” I’m now 100% out of this Atacand 32/HCT 12.5, and on SS Disability. Should anything happen to me because of these delays attributable to CCRx, the lawyers will have a field day. Meanwhile, this hasn’t helped my pressure, but seeing your blog has given me a mission to correct or disqualify CCRX from ever again selling insurance in NY.

  2. 2 Joe September 8, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    CVS also does this on their store items. I have been monitoring their sale items over the past year and 60% of the items advertised are never discounted at the register.

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