Tricare changes force several military families to switch pharmacies

Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 3:28 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -Several active duty military, retirees and their families covered by the government-sponsored health insurance program known as Tricare are having to switch pharmacies. In October, around 15,000 independent pharmacies were removed from the Tricare network.

“All of the sudden October 24th they just did a flat cutout and stopped letting the prescriptions process through these independent pharmacies so everybody was kind of left in a scramble,” said Roger Thompson, Operations Director for Reutzel Pharmacy in Cedar Rapids.

In total Thompson is Operations Director for eight pharmacies across Eastern Iowa. Those pharmacies used to serve Tricare patients, now they’re no longer in network.

”We’ve had a lot of upset customers not understanding,” Thompson explained.

Express Scripts manages the Tricare network through a contract with the Department of Defense. Thompson says independent pharmacies were given the option to sign the new contract, but those decisions are often made by agents above them and this contract came at a much higher cost.

“With the changes made to the re reimbursements of Tricare we went from about breaking even last year with Tricare to we would have been going to losing about $15 per prescription just by filling for these patients,” said Thompson.

Express Scripts sent a statement in December on behalf of Vice President of Account Management, DoD Programs Tom Jenkins saying, “Express Scripts is privileged to continue serving the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, military retirees, and their families. Our recent network change ensured TRICARE beneficiaries can access their prescription medication safely, affordably, conveniently, and at the best value for the Department of Defense and taxpayers. In the Cedar Rapids area, nearly all beneficiaries have an in-network pharmacy within 15 minutes of their home, including a variety of chain, grocery and independent pharmacies. We are always working to provide more choice to our members and look forward to welcoming additional independent pharmacies across the state back into the network early next year.

“We know that any change to health care services can be challenging, which is why we have proactively communicated to beneficiaries who may be impacted well ahead of this change, and have a team working to support them. We encourage any beneficiary with questions to contact us at or 1-877-363-1303.”

But Thompson says the changes still create an inconvenience for longtime customers, especially those in more rural areas like Mount Vernon who now have no choice but to drive 15 miles to get their prescriptions at an in-network pharmacy.

“It’s just unfortunate because those that kind of serve our military and what not you know they don’t have the option to choose which pharmacy they go to,” said Thompson.

It’s an option he says most people have, and should have.