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Why Walgreens Won’t Buy An Insurer In 2018

When Walgreens Boots Alliance reports earnings this week, it will include results from its now year-old relationship with a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) owned by many of the nation’s largest Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

Walgreens’ partnership with Prime Therapeutics is one of the reasons CVS Health needed to buy Aetna so Walgreens doesn’t feel the need to respond with a health plan purchase of its own. The Prime deal is also a reason the nation’s largest drugstore chain has rebuffed the idea of owning a PBM.

Prime is owned by 18 Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans with more than 20 million health plan members across the country. As part of the Prime-Walgreens relationship, these Blue Cross members are in effect directed away from CVS drugstores to Walgreens pharmacies as part of Prime’s national preferred pharmacy network. The preferred pharmacy network began Jan. 1, 2017.