Lankford Secures Big Win for Service Members, Local Pharmacies
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today announced a big win for service members health care access and for rural and family-owned pharmacies as Express Scripts Inc. (ESI), the government contractor in charge of administering TRICARE benefits through the Defense Health Agency (DHA), announced that independent pharmacies will soon be notified that they will have an opportunity to re-enter the TRICARE network and receive reimbursements for providing pharmacy services to service members and retirees after contracts were unexpectedly terminated on October 24. On December 1, pharmacies that were impacted by the changes to TRICARE will receive new contracts to consider and will have until January 1 to make a decision.
“This win for service members and local pharmacies is a direct result of Oklahomans seeing a problem, telling me about it, and standing with me to get it resolved,” said Lankford. “Oklahoma service members, their families, and their pharmacists called and emailed me about losing access to their neighborhood and family-owned pharmacies because TRICARE and Express Scripts just stopped their contracts with small pharmacies without notice. We immediately took action and directly worked with the Defense Health Agency and Express Scripts to get this changed. Now, local pharmacies will have an opportunity to fully consider contract and reimbursement rate changes so they can hopefully once again work with service members to fill their prescriptions. I will continue to ensure that our service members and retirees have the access they deserve.”
Express Scripts announced in September that they would cut 15,000 pharmacies from the TRICARE network in 2023, impacting 9.6 million TRICARE members. The 2022 pharmacy contracts were also set to expire on October 24, rather than at the end of the year, which preemptively reduced the pharmacy network for service members and their families, forcing TRICARE recipients to either receive their prescriptions through mail-order or drive, sometimes over an hour, to another pharmacy.
Lankford has led the way on this effort to reverse the sudden contract change. Upon hearing about the change directly from Oklahoma service members and pharmacies who would lose access, Lankford immediately led his colleagues to send a letter to the Acting DHA Director, Seileen Mullen, to share their concerns that Express Scripts will reduce prescription reimbursements for 9.6 million TRICARE members in 2023 by cutting 15,000 pharmacies from the TRICARE network. Lankford sent a follow up letter to DHA Director Lieutenant General Ronald Place late last month as well. Lankford spoke directly to Pentagon leadership and had countless hours of staff time chasing this issue.