8 things to know about the changes coming to CVS and Walgreens in 2019

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8 things to know about the changes coming to CVS and Walgreens in 2019
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There are a lot of big shakeups coming to the retail pharmacy business.

You may have heard the news that CVS completed its $78 billion acquisition of health insurer Aetna in late November 2018.

But dig beneath the service and you’ll see there are several parallel developments going on at archrival Walgreens, as well.

RELATED: Don’t make this big mistake when shopping your prescriptions

2019 pharmacy business updates: Mergers, new floor plans, expanded services and more

Get ready for some changes to the way you shop…

CVS

Now that the CVS acquisition of Aetna has formally closed as of November 28, there are several new developments you’ll want to be on the lookout for.

CVS Pharmacy sign
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Your local pharmacy store will be reimagined 

CVS has more than 9,800 pharmacy locations and 1,100 MinuteClinic walk-in clinics in its portfolio.

But the number of services and products they provide is set to grow tremendously. Look for more durable medical equipment for sale, a wider range of vision and hearing services being offered and other new developments to be announced.

CVS CEO Larry Merlo tells USA Today that store may also “partner broadly with others in the community around elements that indirectly impact health care.”

Think outside-of-the-box kind of ideas like offering transportation for patients to checkups and “access to food services” right at your local store.

CVS promises savings of $75 on some prescriptions thanks to new technology

The rollout of a proprietary tool called RX Saving Finder that began in mid-2018 will continue in the new year.

With this tool, the chain’s pharmacists will be able to run your prescription and check for three things: Cheaper alternative scripts, possible volume discounts so you can buy higher quantities at a lower cost, and any general manufacturer discounts that may be available.

Additionally, the RX Savings Finder will identify generics or other therapies that could be cheaper and still work for your medical condition.

CVS reports the approximate savings patients have seen from RX Saving Finder has been in the range of $75 per script.

MinuteClinic virtual visit access will be expanded nationwide; insurance will soon be accepted

For the remainder of 2018, CVS will broaden customer access to virtual house calls through the CVS Pharmacy app from a handful of states to around the country.

By early 2019, MinuteClinic virtual visits will be available nationwide where allowed by law.

With this service, you’ll be able to be “seen” by a health care professional for a variety of minor illnesses, minor injuries, skin conditions and women’s services right through your phone. No need to leave your home!

A virtual visit cost $59, which you can pay by credit, debit, FSA or HSA card. Insurance is not widely accepted yet, but CVS is working on it.

Basic orthodontic services are on tap

In re-imagining itself as a health care destination more than just a pharmacy, CVS looks like it’s exploring partnerships with a variety of other related health care providers.

Case in point: Smile Direct Club — an online seller of invisible braces — recently revealed on LinkedIn that it has a new retail location inside a California CVS.

“More to come,” SDC writes in its post. “So thankful for our partnership with CVS.”

Walgreens 

Never one to let a competitor steal the spotlight entirely, Walgreens may have a little merger magic up its sleeve, too.

walgreens sign
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A merger with Humana may be in the cards in 2019

Just days before Thanksgiving, The Wall Street Journal reported that Walgreens and health insurer Humana have been “in preliminary discussions to take equity stakes in each other.”

The talks aren’t completely out of the blue; both Walgreens and Humana already work together serving senior citizens at two pharmacy locations in the Kansas City, Missouri area.

Humana is the second-largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans. So a merger could potentially be a way for Walgreens to get access to a bigger piece of a graying U.S. population.

Floor space is being shaken up to take on Amazon

CVS isn’t the only company posing a threat to Walgreens. As Amazon looks to muscle its way into the health care business, Walgreens thinks it has found a way to beat the e-commerce giant back.

In a suburban Chicago store near its corporate headquarters, Walgreens is prototyping the pharmacy of the future…and front-end billing is being given to beauty products, OTC medications, supplements, toiletries and more.

What’s not feeling the love in the new floor layout? Candy, snacks and seasonal decorations. All three of those are banished to the back, according to a brand-new report from Business Insider.

The new arrangement also reportedly creates more space for ancillary health services like hearing screenings, eye exams and lab tests.

Walgreens is planning a major multi-year expansion of its LabCorp partnership

Over the next four years, the number of LabCorp patient service centers inside Walgreens stores is set to explode.

The 17 LabCorp sites that are now open inside the pharmacy will grow more than 35 times over to a minimum of 600 by 2021, according to a new agreement.

The LabCorp-at-Walgreens collaboration gives customers a place to drop off specimens for diagnostic testing.

Kroger and Walgreens are teaming up on a new pilot store format

Ever wanted to order Kroger grocery items online and pickup your order at a closer more conveniently located Walgreens? Your wish is coming true — at least at 13 Walgreens stores in Northern Kentucky near Kroger’s Cincinnati headquarters.

According to a recent press release, the two companies are testing out a new format “that combines Kroger’s role as America’s grocer and food authority with Walgreens global expertise in pharmacy, health and beauty.”

The new format is expected to help introduce Kroger’s Simple Truth organic brand into Walgreens stores.

Others speculate this may just be a precursor to Kroger selling off its pharmacy business to Walgreens.

Check out these holiday retail stories on Clark.com

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the New York Times #1 bestseller Living Large in Lean Times. As a single widowed parent of two young children, he strives to bring unique savings tips to men and women like him who must face life without their spouses. He can be reached at [email protected]
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