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HealthPartners to close retail pharmacies in early 2020, 300 jobs to be eliminated

Updated: November 07, 2019 06:22 PM

HealthPartners is planning to close its retail pharmacies by early 2020, eliminating about 300 jobs.

HealthPartners said the closure includes 30 retail pharmacies located within HealthPartners, Park Nicollet, Central Minnesota, and Stillwater Medical Group clinics, as well as the organization's owned mail-order pharmacy operations.

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HealthPartners' retail clinic pharmacy locations are scheduled to close April 1, with Park Nicollet, Central Minnesota, and Stillwater Medical Group retail clinic pharmacies to close on Jan. 20.

HealthPartners said it will continue to operate its specialty, infusion, and hospital pharmacies. Also, their health plan pharmacy management and medication therapy management services. 

The health plan will also continue to offer a broad range of pharmacy options within its network, including mail-order options, and HealthPartners clinicians still partner with patients to coordinate and manage medications, regardless of which pharmacy they choose.

About 300 positions will be eliminated due to the closures, including about 100 pharmacists.

Even local independent pharmacies are feeling the impact of these moves. 

"The smaller pharmacy, especially the independent, it's tough to make it in the market," said Jim Stage, owner of Setzer's Pharmacy in Roseville.

Jim Stage said he had to close another one of his pharmacies earlier this year.

"We can feel the reason why retail pharmacies are closing," Stage said.

"It's a real challenge for retail pharmacies," said Dan McLaughlin, professor of Healthcare Management at the University of St. Thomas.

Dan McLaughlin pointed to companies like Lunds & Byerlys and Walgreens who also decided to move away from in-store clinics.

"I think we're going to see in the next five years an amazing change in the way health care is delivered in this country," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said he believes a big part of that is Amazon acquiring mail-order pharmacy PillPack.

"They can deliver stuff in a day so do you really want to go to a drug store anymore," McLaughlin said. "People are entering the health care industry that haven't been there in the past, so the health care industry itself, Health Partners, is saying 'let's make sure that we're really good at our health care stuff.'"

"We're not surprised by it," Stage said.

Stage blames this trend on the middle man companies that manage prescription drug benefits, or PBMs, and he thinks customers won't like the result.

"When the market shrinks and the insurance payer shrinks, you're going to have higher prices for the consumer, that's not what you'll hear but that's what is going to happen," McLaughlin said.

Patients with questions can call 866-716-0785 or visit HealthPartners' website for more information.

Scott Schnuckle, Senior Vice President, Pharmacy & Business Development at HealthPartners, released the following statement regarding the closures:

"Our retail pharmacies have provided a convenient option for our patients for many years. Consumer preferences and pharmacy economics have changed, however, to favor large-scale organizations able to support extended hours, drive-through pickup, and other conveniences we're not able to offer. Like others preceding us in our market, we've made the difficult decision to exit our retail pharmacy operation.

"We will be supporting our colleagues through the transition during the next several months. We'll also be working closely with our patients ahead of this transition to ensure they will continue to have convenient access to the prescription medications they need."

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