Humana and Walgreens announced on Tuesday they will open new Partners in Primary Care centers in two Walgreens in the Kansas City, Missouri area. The centers are senior-focused primary care clinics.
The companies said the program brings together primary care, pharmacy and in-person health plan support for Medicare beneficiaries in a retail setting.
The primary care clinics are expected to open in the fall and join the four other Partners in Primary Care Centers in the area that opened last year. The companies said they may expand into other markets down the road.
The Partners in Primary Care senior programs will open in existing Walgreens. Humana representatives will be in the stores to help Humana Medicare members and other customers with free health-related services. Services include diabetes education, identifying local community support groups and finding a senior fitness class.
The move is a way for Humana, the second largest Medicare Advantage payer, to expand its footprint in the community. Humana has more than 65,000 Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plan members in the Kansas City area.
An analyst note from Jefferies said that the announcement shows that Walgreen's is set to be competitive in the long run despite the rapidly changing healthcare sector. "We believe that yesterday's announcement gives more credence to WBA's independent model strategy, as WBA has the ability and has now inked partnerships with two of the largest payors in the U.S. (UNH via MedExpress being the other). We expect that as WBA rolls out more in-store healthcare services, the associated rent and/or shared profits should further enhance gross profit over time," the note said.
Payers are increasingly expanding Medicare Advantage and view the program as a growth area. One reason for the program’s potential is the daily influx of new members to Medicare Advantage. Payers can easily convert members from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage via marketing campaigns. Few switch back to traditional Medicare once payers get members into Medicare Advantage.
Plus, Medicare Advantage’s reimbursement system works for payers and the members often move from employer-based health plans into Medicare Advantage. So, there aren’t usually pent-up healthcare needs.
As healthcare organizations continue to figure out ways for vertical mergers and partnerships, these kinds of collaborations will likely continue to crop up over the next couple of years.