The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

An Insurance Tutorial for the customer

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 7:45 pm on Sunday, October 28, 2012

Since its the advent of “open enrollment” season, Pharmacy Chick thought it might be a good time to do a piece to remind our valued customers what insurance is, what it does and good information to consider when you forget to give us your new insurance information  next year, neglect to read the provided mailings and generally plead ignorance when you are quizzed by pharmacy staff when your coverage rejects on January 1.

You think I am being funny…I am not…ok, I am trying to be funny but all of the above WILL happen across the pharmacies nationwide ( as they do every year) on Jan 1.

Previous to the concept of “insurance”, if you were sick, you went to the doctor, and then paid his bill…either by some payment plan or in one lump sum.  If he gave you a prescription, you took it to the pharmacy and bought it. If you had no money, you most likely didn’t go to the doctor because you couldn’t pay for it.  Like other things in life, you could have only those things you could afford to own. I have no doubt that people died from things curable because they couldn’t pay a dr to see them.

Then, somebody came up with this idea of “insurance” which by its basic idea was to take a large group of people to all pitch in a small amount of money…to create a large fund of money to “fund” the illness of those who might get sick over the specified  period of time.  Essentially the “many” fund the “few”.  Its a fair and honorable concept.

Unfortunately it became a veritable monster whose sole purpose it seems has been to sustain itself,using premiums to pay for all the employees of the insurance company ( whose jobs include rejecting claims, avoiding phone calls,  and reducing benefits) instead of paying claims of the members.

Never the less, this massive beaurocratic pig is here to stay so one might as well stay informed.

So for the benefit of my huge readership ( all 7 of you) here are some pretty valuable concepts ( all given to you in laymans terms..right on the table) to help you know about your insurance.  May it prove to be useful.

1. Your insurance counts on your ignorance. Read the materials they send you.  Save those materials, and when they send you new cards, throw away the old ones, and make sure that everybody who provides your health care gets a copy of that new card. Keep all that correspondence in one manilla envelope marked ” 2013 Insurance info”. They are only required to inform you by mail about certain changes, they arent required to make sure you know and understand.

2. New year, new benefits.  Do not assume that what you got in 2012 will be what you get in 2013, and that includes your prescription drugs.  What was covered in 2012 may not be covered at all in 2013, or it may be a higher copay.   Not only what is covered may have changed, but how much you can get can also change…overnight.  You may have enjoyed a 3 month supply of Nexium this year, but next year you may be limited to 30 days…unless you enroll in your mail order option.

3.  New year, new networks.  As reimbursements change, sometimes you will wake up on Jan 1 to find out that your pharmacy ( or doctor or hospital) are no longer in your network, or no longer a preferred provider.

4. New year, new hassles. For every 10 people who wander into my pharmacy on Jan 2 with a prescription to fill and a terminated plan, 8 of them will stammer that “nothing has changed”.  Trust me, it has, and giving me hell because I cannot divine your new insurance will not help the situation much.

5. New year, new deductibles:  So after you have worn off that New Year’s Eve hangover, watched all the bowl games on TV and thrown out the cold smokies and warm soda left on the counter all day, remember this: its a NEW YEAR, and for many of us, including the Pharmacy Chick, the anual deductibles are back on the table.  Because I have a high deductible plan, I am still working on 2012 in late October.  Therefore when your Trilipix goes  10.00 to 148.00 please understand that I am not ripping you off.

6. New year, new card requirements.  This is mainly a hassle for us providers.  Your card might look nearly identical between 2012 and 2013 but often much changes at the provider level.  Sometimes your insurance company changes WHO handles their pharmacy claims.  For us, that is the BIN number…it helps us to find WHO to bill.   If you have medicare D, the beaurocratic pigs in washington make miniscule changes to your cards every year that require we change SOMETHING  every January to make claims submission successful. So you may have had Blue Cross of Gooberville for the last 20 years, but since Blue Cross changed your person code from 01 to 00 in 2013, all of your 2013 claims have to be submitted differently.

Lastly, remember that your insurance is an contractural agreement between YOU and THEM..not YOU and ME.  I have no impact whatsoever on what is covered, what you pay, or how much you can get.  Pharmacies only provide the service.  I have my own contract with the insurance to provide members with drugs that THEY have agreed to pay.  YOU and I have no agreements whatsoever.  Its the same with your physician’s offices.  If something isn’t covered, you have 2 options:  pay or walk.  Dont be surprised if we arent overly sensitive to complaints about price.  We do not set the price and since we pharmacies endure endless complaints in January about price, after a certian amount of time, we simply don’t want to hear about it any more. Don’t take it personally.  If you do not agree with a price or copay, you are not required to purchase the rx, and YOU are always free to call your insurance to obtain more information.  More often than not the pharmacy will NOT have the time to call on your behalf about copay disputes.

So, dear readers, when you get your 2013 packet, pore over it like it was holy scripture.  Review what you are taking now and verify it will be covered next year.  Have a plan. Stay informed and have a plan B in place if the unthinkable happens.

As health care expenses skyrocket, insurance companies look for ways to save money…and they are rarely to YOUR benefit! 🙂





Internet marketing: Part II License to steal.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 8:43 pm on Saturday, October 13, 2012

There is clearly something wrong with Pharmacy Chick:  She doesn’t steal:  she doesn’t think about ways to steal, and she never takes opportunities to take things that do not belong to her. Once ( under dark of night) Mr Chick and I found a load of cash on the road coming home from work. Nearby was a wallet  that look like it had exploded ( from being run over).  We could have kept it.  The wallet’s owner never would have known we found it.  Nevertheless, it would have been a form of theft…keeping something you know doesnt’ belong to you…and knowing who the owner is makes it precisely that: theft.  Its kinda like dumping your trash in a grocery store’s dumpster:  technically its theft of service, taking something that doesn’t belong to you.

However, our foray into  internet marketing has made it very clear that stealing is not merely common, but widespread..and unabashedly shameless.

One of pharmacy chicks responsibilities is to manage the billing for ITEM.  Because MR Moneybags came up with this brilliant ” subscription” idea, handling the money is complicated.   On good faith, we send out a full size container of ITEM and according to the terms of agreement, customers can enjoy all the benefits of ITEM for 14 days.  They will be charged a fee on day 14 IF they have not cancelled their order and returned the product.  Pretty simple….make s bit of money 14 days after we send out our free trial …IF THEY HAVE MONEY ON THEIR CREDIT CARD.

Apparently this is quite the popular scam….use a nearly maxed out credit card to obtain free trials, then fail to pay for them when the time runs out.  There is really nothing the business can do.  Nobody is going to beat down the scammer’s door to get the product back. We just get a notification from the payment processor saying that the payment has failed and no further withdrawals will be made on the suspended account.  One might hope its an anomaly, but in truth, its the majority of the “sales” we had. … much so that we abandoned all new orders after if became evident that our FAILS outnumbered the SUCCESSES by 2:1.

It makes me sad that so many people use the internet to shoplift from their homes.

Never the less, a smattering of the total did manage to get to the first charge stage.  Nobody was breathing easy yet.  We then started receiving the snotty calls wanting to cancel….( did they think that 14 days was anything but 14 days??)

Anything past 14 days is technically our money, but we wanted to be good business people and felt it would be proper to refund a cancelled order.

Because the terms made it pretty clear that the return of the unused ITEM was part of the deal, we received a fair amount of voice messages calling FOUL when they were asked to return ITEM to get their refund..

yada yada yada…

It reminded me way too much of  the pharmacy when we run those stupid coupon events with people trying to scam the pharmacy by abusing the offer. After a while I felt I was at work 24-7…the only difference of which was that I OWNED the second company.

We’ve also received a few calls from people who clearly didn’t read the terms for the trial.  They thought Free  14 day trial was FREE forever….Really??? Like I was just going to start sending out full size containers of ITEM without any provision of payment?  They balked at the first payment for the product.  ” I thought It was free”.  Yes, it was a free 14 day trial…the 14 days  are up.  You pay or return..

I conferred with MR MoneyBags about this and he said  “well you must expect some attrition”…Sure I can expect some attrition…but nearly 70% failure/theft rate?  Any profit we made on the few that will go thru will surely be eaten up with the ones who stole it from us.

As the month ends and more and more of the successes realize their charges, I figure more of them will balk at it and call to bitch about it.  I dont return the calls.  I gave that juicy job to Mr Chick.  Somehow I ended up managing the banking mess of this.  I gave HIM Customer service!

There was an object lesson in here:   Mr Money bags said “tons” of people like to buy stuff this way…he was almost correct…tons of people like to steal stuff this way.


Our foray into the unseemly world of internet marketing: Part I

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 10:08 pm on Friday, October 12, 2012

Some time ago ( without going into too many personal details)  Mr Chick made this ITEM that we shared with our friends and family.  Everybody liked it and asked for more.  Many of them said ” Mr Chick,  you should sell this!”  So he made more of this item and started to actually sell it to people.  It went over pretty well and with little help from Pharmacy Chick herself ( I am no salesman) he sold about nine thousand bucks worth of ITEM.  Then one day somebody approached Mr C and told him he could make ” real” money by selling it on the internet.  ” do you wanna make lunch money or REAL money”  Mr C thought it might be nice.  He knows I hate my job most of the time and gets stressed when he sees me so stressed about work.  He wants to find a way for me to quit. Perhaps this could be it…..

Pharmacy Chick wasn’t quite so excited about it.

Granted, this guy  has made millions in internet sales.  He has 2 huge houses in sunny climates.  Whats not to like?  Well, first off, everybody wanted money…and more than I wanted to spend.  Money to build a website. Money to integrate the billing, money to hire affiliates to market ITEM ( IE banner ads and what I would call Spam emails)  and then  money for every customer sent to the website that actually buys it…money to have access to a site to shows “clicks” ( wtf?)..on and on.  But more importantly,  Mr MoneyBags wanted to market our product in a form most commonly seen in questionable supplements, penile enlargement pills, and junk like that:  ” get a free trial, and if you keep it, you are charged an enrollment fee then you are sent ITEM once monthly for X number of months.

Personally, I never buy stuff like that.  I was afraid that we would get nothing but trash trying to  steal our product under the guise of ” free trial”.  My concerns were voiced but not taken very seriously.  After all Mr money bags asked again..” do you want REAL MONEY or lunch money”. I didn’t even tell our friends about the site to be launched.

Thus began a 10 month money pit fiasco. For starters, web design and integration can be a pretty unseemly group.  Promises were made and money was collected. Deadlines came and went and  about the only thing forthcoming from Mr Web Designer was excuses.  He got canned and Mr MoneyBags hired WebDesigner II to finish what WebDesignerI couldn’t finish.  WD II didn’t do much better than WDI did as far as  getting the integration with the bank working.  About the only thing HE was good at was debiting our account for his fee.  THAT went off flawlessly.

WD II finally announced that all his work was complete and all the testing was done.  Ready..set..go!   ( you know that feeling of doom you get when you just KNOW something is going to fail?..yea..thats me)  The site looked like the typical cheesy site. I never liked it.  Even Mr Chick, didn’t LOVE it,  but again..Mr Money Bags said it was perfect.   I asked  ” ARE YOU SURE EVERYTHING WORKS?’  ….” but of course”…

So finally 9 and 1/2 months after ITEM was supposed to launch…it finally launched.   I guess the adage is true that some people with buy anything if they think they  might get it for free.   The question is:  do you really want THAT kind of people?

The answer I will tell you:  NO

To make a long story short: 1) No, everything DIDNT work.  Orders for the “free trial” came in and half of them never passed thru the bank…they were declined so obviously they were probably stolen or maxed out credit cards.  2)  Of those that actually worked, the processor didnt’ collect really important information like, Oh, I dunno, the FRIGGIN ADDRESS…so I could mail ITEM out.3)  It also failed to start the clock on the ” free trial”.  I guess WDII forgot that ” free trial” meant  ” TRIAL..”  not  just FREE… and 4) since I wasn’t immediately aware of these failures, we mailed out a lot of ITEM that ended up free.  Nice.  NOT….so….much.

Frantic calls to MoneyBags were met with concern and promises that WDII would handle it immediately.  I guess ” immediately” has a different definition than whats in the dictionary.  Every order that came in we had to ” cancel” with an email telling them that there was an error in processing.  This, of course, made us look stupid.

Several days later they announced that it was indeed fixed…and by all appearances it was.  We started processing orders again, but I had this funny feeling that this was going to be a complete failure.  I’d finish work, get home at 930 pm to find 20 internet orders to process.  They had to be shipped in 24 hours so I went from ONE job to another, working at home til midnight.

Pretty soon, it became obvious that the people who buy stuff from banner ads and spam emails arent likely the people you really want to be your customers.

to be continued.

One business..3 models. Which one works best? And how to relate to Pharmacy?

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 11:02 pm on Saturday, October 6, 2012

When you own your own business, you choose how to run it. Run it well and you can make a lot of money, run it poorly and its likely that you won’t be around for long.  There are 3 television shows on currently that showcase a single type of business: the pawn shop.   They demonstrate 3 drastically different examples of business models serving one industry. The first is Hard Core Pawn, the second is Pawn Stars, and the third is Cajun Pawn Stars.  By all appearances they are all successful considering they get their own TV show, but lets decide who runs theirs best.

The first is called Hard Core Pawn.  Set in Detroit MI, the pawn shop is quite large and by all appearances the clientele are poor, angry and desperate. Its a family owned business, lead by a steely eyed father who takes absolutely  no crap. He has  a couple of kids who do battle with each other nearly every episode.  Aside from that, its most interesting to watch their approach towards their customers.  they treat most ( if not all) of them with disdain, and most interactions are adversarial at best, nearly violent at worst.  Shouting matches are common between the family members, and more common between the employees and their customers. Most interactions end badly and the customers leave mad.  Most of the stuff brought in is junk at best in my opinion. After about 5 episodes, I quit watching it because the shouting and the angry interactions caused me anxiety.

The second is called Pawn Stars. Set in Las Vegas NV, its also family owned:  the Old Man, his son Rick and his grandson Corey and Corey’s friend Chumlee. The interactions with each other and their customers are much different than from Hard Core Pawn.  Whereas “angry” is the theme above, ” mocking” comes to mind in Pawn Stars.   The 3 generations ridicule and mock eachother on a daily basis. They treat their customers better than  Hard Core, but I observe that they sometimes carefully and sometimes not so carefully mock their customers and the stuff they bring in.    There is a lot of hand shaking, but not all the customers leave feeling good about their interactions at the store, and I get the feeling that the boys feel they are just a little better/smarter/savvier/ than their customers.

The third ( and last) is called Cajun Pawn Stars. Set in Louisiana, its also family owned: Run by Big Daddy Jimmie DeRamus and his family, its the polar opposite of Hard Core Pawn.  Everybody is treated with polite respect, even Joker, who is the local picker who brings in mostly junk and tries to convince Big Daddy that it is a treasure.  He is stern with his haggling and will never pay more than he really wants to, but if you look at is method, its always respectful and polite and genteel.  Even if he doesn’t buy the item the someone is attempting to sell, the interaction ends well.  He is fair and just and will often reveal that an item is worth MORE than what the person thinks it is…and pays accordingly.

One Business:  3 drastically different business models.  Without hesitation, I would choose to do my business with Big Daddy over the others. Does he give the customers exactly what they want?  NO.  Is he a pushover?  Certainly not.  He as mastered CUSTOMER RELATIONS.  ( heavy on the “relations”)    There IS a relationship involved when we do business with eachother.  The key to success isn’t in getting your own way…its really in building that relationship so that both sides are willing to work in a direction that we both get what we want and need out of a transaction.

We can learn a lot from these 3 business models.  Ive seen too many Hard Core Pharmacists who seem to believe that the only relationship they can have with a customer is an adversarial one.  And while shouting matches rarely break out in a pharmacy, the slow burn flashes occasionally into a fire.  These pharmacists never really like any of their customers and about the only thing they like about their job is the paycheck.

Others are like our Las Vegas family. Slim on relationships, they put up with their customers a little better than Hard Core, but the theme is still ” whats in it for me?”

We should strive to be more like our cajun counterpart.  Heavy on relationships, but running a tight business none the less. I am not above learning something from watching that show.  Big Daddy Jimmie DeRamus is a master in customer relations.  You may bring in a treasure that is merely sentimental junk, but he isn’t going to make you feel bad about it.  I am sure he learned his art after many years in the business.

I feel I have learned much over the years in how to relate to customers.  I have learned how to talk with people, not AT them.  I have learned to  listen…to care…and tho I am far from perfect, I think I have a pretty good understanding of how customers think and should be treated. I have learned WHAT to say to diffuse situations, and what NOT to say to make matters worse.  I have learned when its good to speak directly, and when its time to say nothing. I have learned how to word statements so that they make sense to customers unfamiliar with the workings of a pharmacy.

Its a talent that my new pharmacist is learning.  Its a talent one of my techs will never learn.

I encourage you to watch an episode of each one.  Decide for yourself and see which one would serve you best in your pharmacy. I know which one I need!



Restating the obvious

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 10:07 pm on Tuesday, October 2, 2012

We ran out of flu vaccine today.  Tomorrow a whole bunch arrives.

So when Mr Les O’Clue came in for a shot today I had to break the news that we were out of stock today, but tomorrow we will have some more.

“Does that mean I cant get a flu shot today?”

yessiree…that is what it means.

” Can I get one tomorrow?’

yup, exactly…

I guess you cant be too sure! 🙂