Medicare-Focused Insurance Agency Could Benefit Independent Pharmacies


A Q&A with Joe McKamey, general manager at Marcrom’s Pharmacy in Manchester, Tennessee.

It’s no secret that independent pharmacies have been dealing with numerous issues over the past several years, including high employee turnover, understaffing, and employee burnout. Decreasing revenue has been one of the major issues impacting pharmacies as well, and many have adopted different ways to try and increase their profits.

Joe McKamey, general manager at Marcrom’s Pharmacy in Manchester, Tennessee, thinks opening a Medicare-focused insurance agency could also help independent pharmacies. Drug Topics sat down with McKamey at the 2024 American Associated Pharmacies (AAP) Annual Conference to talk about why pharmacies should open their own Medicare-focused insurance agency and what steps and preparations they can take to ensure a successful launch and operation.

Medicare-Focused Insurance Agency Could Benefit Independent Pharmacies / Jacob Lund -

Medicare-Focused Insurance Agency Could Benefit Independent Pharmacies / Jacob Lund -

Drug Topics: Why is it crucial for pharmacies to have their own Medicare-focused insurance agency?

READ MORE: Addressing Misconceptions Around Opening A Medicare-Focused Insurance Agency

Joe McKamey: That's a great question. It is super important because, one, we want to make sure that we're generating revenue and two, we're really positioned better than anybody else in terms of knowing what the patients need and how Medicare works. I don't think many pharmacists out there know how complicated [Medicare] really can be. For years we did Medicare Part D reviews and what we learned was once we got licensed, once we learned about the bigger picture, the [Medicare Supplements], the Part D plans, the Medicare Advantage plans, once we learned about it all and were able to offer the whole picture to somebody, we found that we were able to really help them a lot more.

Now that I'm looking back on it, when we were only doing Medicare Part D reviews, we might have even been doing people a disservice. I just think it's super important to be able to help these patients to maximize their benefits. We're able to do that, we're able to make sure that they're well taken care of.

Drug Topics: What steps or preparations should pharmacies undertake to ensure a successful launch and operation of a Medicare-focused insurance agency?

McKamey: That's kind of a loaded question. It is ultimately simple to do. It's ultimately simple to get licensed, to get the contracting done, but it takes time. The very first thing is to plan for the fact that it's going to take some time. I think the other thing that's super important is that pharmacies and pharmacy owners go into it with the mindset that it is its own business. You want to treat it that way. If you treat it just like it's an ancillary service, it's probably not going to be worth your time. But if you treat it as its own business, potentially even hire a dedicated person to be your insurance agent, that's when you're going to be more successful. I would say give yourself plenty of time to get licensed, contracted, and you need to find the right person. It doesn't need to be the pharmacist; it doesn't need to be your best technician.

You've [also] got to choose what's called a field marketing organization or a general agency. That's a super important decision to make because that's who's going to walk you through the training. That's who's going to walk you through contracting [and] is going to be your support. Because what you're going to find is that there's so many different situations [you can] come across. [You can] call [your] field marketing organization and ask them and they're a resource…It's super important to choose the right one when you're making that choice. The one we chose allows us to own our own agency, allows us to own our own book of business.

We have an asset that's ours. If we ever want to sell that in the future we could and also, if we wanted to move to a different field marketing organization, we could. I know there are some organizations out there that might be a little simpler to get started with but at the end of the day, you don't have control of your own book of business. I know all of us in independent pharmacies…probably want our book of business to be independent of anybody else.

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