June 7, 2014 in Business

In second hit to Liberty Lake, Express Scripts to reduce workforce by 100

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Express Scripts is the largest pharmacy benefits manager in the country, with 29,000 workers.

In the second major loss of jobs announced this week in Liberty Lake, Express Scripts Inc., a national pharmacy benefits manager, is cutting its Liberty Lake workforce by 100 jobs.

The company plans to keep 200 other workers in place.

The Liberty Lake office has been an intake or front-end pharmacy center since the 1990s. Express Scripts, based in St. Louis, acquired it in 2012 by buying the assets of Medco Health Solutions, the original operator of the Liberty Lake center.

Express Scripts negotiates drug prices for large employers and major health insurers and fills orders for their members and employees. It is the largest pharmacy benefits manager in the country, with 29,000 workers nationwide.

Announced earlier this year, its corporate restructuring will convert the Liberty Lake operation, at 23102 E. Appleway Ave., from an intake pharmacy to a customer prescription and insurance-coverage review center.

As a result, it will need fewer workers, spokesman Brian Henry said.

Earlier this week, Utah-based call center firm Vivint announced it’s closing a Liberty Lake office that earlier this year had about 45 employees.

Starting Monday, instead of having 45 registered pharmacists, the Liberty Lake site will have 36 pharmacists, along with roughly 160 other workers.

Front-end pharmacies receive prescriptions faxed or emailed in bulk from insurance providers, government agencies and others. Those high-volume prescriptions are verified and processed, followed by workers transmitting the prescriptions to company fulfillment centers.

Workers at those sites ship the drugs to patients across the country.

Preparing for the shift two months ago, the company offered 200 of its 300 Liberty Lake employees jobs within the new division. Instead, about 100 of those accepted a severance offer, Henry said. The other 100 are filling similar or different positions in the new realigned coverage-review unit, he said.

Some of the jobs being cut are prescription processors, pharmacy service representatives and account management specialists.

The 100 workers not offered severance are not affected by the change, Henry noted. Those are IT staff, administrative employees, data entry specialists, maintenance teams and others who manage the building.

Henry said the Liberty Lake site could regain the nine pharmacists who have left, plus some of the 100 workers who accepted severance. Even with a new focus, it needs pharmacists on hand to review some prescriptions, he said.

“We do expect that, over time, our staffing levels in Spokane would be back closer to 300,” Henry said.

Coverage review, generally, involves ensuring that prescriptions are properly filled and that in cases of prior approval, the required signatures and safeguards have been followed. It also involves tracking generic medications and considering those to reduce the cost of prescriptions.

Launched in 1990 by Merck-Medco, the Liberty Lake site was acquired when Express Scripts bought out its largest competitor for $29 billion two years ago.

In 2013 it had total sales of $104 billion and net income of $1.8 billion.

Publicly traded Express Scripts has reported that the federal government and officials in New Jersey have sent subpoenas to the company, based on inquiries into the company’s relationships with several makers of multiple sclerosis treatments.

The company has said in SEC filings it intends to cooperate with the inquiries but isn’t able to predict the timing or outcome.


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