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Addressing Concerns for Mail Order Prescription Delays

With the increased usage of mail orders for prescriptions during the pandemic, new concerns are approaching with the US Postal Service’s capacity to meet delivery timelines. Medications via mail order have seen a 21% increase compared to last year, with many local pharmacies offering creative solutions to meet the home-delivery demand.

Preference may not even be an option, however, as some health plans mandate mail-order use. While various pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) do not rely on the USPS for mail-order delivery, the postal service manages 1.2 billion prescription shipments per year. Nationally, an Ipsos poll found that 1 in 5 Americans got medication through the mail at the end of August, and 1 in 4 experienced a delay or non-delivery. Among those who depend on the service are vulnerable populations, including patients with chronic health issues, rural residents, veterans and the elderly.

Representatives from all the major PBMs have not experienced or anticipate any disruption in service. Similarly, mid-market PBMs have stated minimal impact with contingency plans in place to ensure timely medication delivery. Medications used to treat chronic health conditions, including specialty, are often dispensed from a mail-order pharmacy. Members are encouraged to allow for a minimum of one week lead time to receive a refill on their mail-order medication. Also, most health plans allow for an early refill override or an option to pick up at a retail location.

Consultants and HR leaders need to be aware of the potential negative impact that medication delays can have on an employee’s wellbeing.

The American College of Physicians recently released a statement expressing their concern: “Mail-order prescriptions can be particularly important in rural areas where the local pharmacy may be a long-distance away.” This potential problem could lead to increased medical expenses due to otherwise avoidable hospitalizations and emergency room visits. According to the American Heart Association, “medication non-adherence causes 30-50% of treatment failures and results in approximately 125,000 preventable deaths a year.” The pandemic brings forth lags and setbacks every day; however, access to medication must be prioritized.

Some issues surrounding medication delays are more nuanced and challenging to talk about. This is especially true for people with disabilities invisible to the human eye, who have little interest in divulging their medical concerns with their supervisors. There may be no immediate answer; however, it is in HR’s best interested to get familiar with the complexity of the issues on their employees’ minds.

The news on this topic could change at any time, especially as the November 2020 election approaches. That’s even more reason to start learning about healthcare topics affecting your employees and how to talk about them, politics aside.

For continued updates and comprehensive solutions, please contact your OneDigital Pharmacy Consulting strategist.