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Obamacare glitch represents retail opportunity

Walgreens, Walmart and Kroger were among major retailers quick to implement temporary new programs designed to help customers coping with one of the many glitches associated with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act.

Walgreens on Monday said through the end of January it will provide medications to those patients who may have difficulty using their new insurance coverage because they haven't received a plan identification number yet from their insurer. In those situations, the retailer said patients can bring confirmation of their enrollment in the public health insurance marketplace to a Walgreens pharmacy, or the pharmacy staff can check to verify eligibility, and Walgreens will assist them by providing up to a month of a traditional1, brand and generic medication at no upfront cost.

“We understand that all the changes that come with health care reform may create some questions for newly enrolled individuals,” said Kermit Crawford, president of pharmacy, health and wellness for Walgreens. “We are deeply committed to helping these patients get, stay and live well by helping them to get their medications without interruption.”

Walmart quickly followed suit on Tuesday, declaring its commitment to offering customers affordable ways to stay healthy, including access to their medications.

"Customers who have signed up for the public health exchanges should be able to access their benefits immediately,” said John Agwunobi, president of health and wellness at Walmart U.S. “That's why, starting tomorrow through the end of January, we will fill up to a 30-day supply of prescriptions with no upfront cost to customers who have enrolled but have not yet received their plan identification information from their insurance providers. Our pharmacists will also provide assistance in verifying enrollment and will be available to help answer questions about the new insurance plans."

Kroger vp of pharmacy Lincoln Lutz announced a similar approach for the nation's largest supermarket pharmacy retailer.

"Every January, our pharmacists and technicians help customers navigate through new plan transitions. It is part of our commitment to the health and wellness of the communities we serve," Lutz said. "Our pharmacists are once again available to answer questions and provide information about the new insurance plans. And, to ensure that our customers can get their medications without interruption, we are offering to fill certain prescriptions at no upfront cost for up to 30 days for customers who have signed up for the public health exchanges but have not yet received their plan ID card."