Kicking off the week, a walkout. Pharmacy staff at both Walgreens and CVS locations are participating in a three-day walkout that started today (30 October) and will go through Wednesday (1 November). The scope is limited–organizers are urging pharmacists to call in sick on those days and the actions appear to be somewhat scattered by state. This follows an earlier mid-October three-day walkout [TTA 11 Oct]. The Walgreens action, according to organizers, will end on Wednesday with Wednesday with a planned demonstration outside Walgreens’ headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Illinois.
The organizer quoted by MedCityNews and CNN, Shane Jerominski, a former Walgreens pharmacist and now with an independent pharmacy, stated that the issues are over short-staffing and overwork. In addition to their main tasks of accurately filling prescriptions, he said that they also deal with requests for administering vaccinations, testing, setting up auto-refills and other tasks. Mr. Jerominski claims that 2,500 Walgreens pharmacists and technicians will participate, which is coming as a surprise to Walgreens management. He also claimed to CNN 25 store closures.
Pharmacy workers are not currently unionized, but both the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU) are interested and support the walkouts. The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) also issued a statement of support from their CEO including issues such as patient harassment, burnout, quotas, and additional fees imposed by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) such as Express Scripts and Optum. Becker’s
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continues its warning shots over the bow to Big Healthcare. POLITICO, the daily broadsheet of the political class, reported that Andrew Forman, a deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s antitrust division, warned that DOJ would be 1) closely scrutinizing all deals for antitrust and 2) stepping up post-merger investigations. This is all about “monopoly’ of healthcare markets as deemed by DOJ–and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), currently ax-tossing at Amazon. Mr. Forman cited national economic data, blame-gaming among health care providers, insurers and drug makers, and economic analysts–as well as the public comments registered as part of DOJ’s draft merger guidelines. Hiding behind value-based care isn’t going to help as DOJ is questioning whether payer/provider consolidation actually delivers on VBC, but instead “delivers on increased power and conduct that increases barriers and otherwise harms competition”. A far more complete summary of his remarks at the Health Care Competition Conference of The Capitol Forum is at Medical Economics.
Our backgrounders on both DOJ and FTC actions around antitrust and mergers are summarized on 24 August (lead item) including our 20 July analysis of the Draft Merger Guidelines and this Editor’s educated guesses on the cloudy future of M&A. Also Becker’s
Slipping in under the DOJ radar is Cantata Health’s majority sale to a private equity group, TT Capital Partners (TTCP). Cantata developed and markets the Arize EHR and revenue cycle management platform for behavioral health, human services, acute and post-acute care. Arize is in 280 healthcare facilities across 45 states, as well as Canada, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Investment amount nor percentage are disclosed, nor who exited or management changes. However, a look back at a 2017 release about Cantata’s formation states that another PE, GPB Capital, acquired NTT DATA’s healthcare software assets for acute and long-term care. TTCP release
In Lancashire, the County Council has chosen a new preferred provider for technology enabled care services (TECS), Progress Lifeline, in a competitive bid. The Council currently provides personal alarm button pendants, wristbands, and wireless home sensors and detectors to local residents for a monthly fee. A significant factor in these new bids is enabling a smooth analogue-to-digital changeover, a critical issue for UK telecare providers. Progress release Hat tip to Diane Gannon of Progress