A Really Bad Idea

We learned last week that CVS, which sells prescription drugs but is far more interested in selling you mixed nuts (Gold Emblem Deluxe Mixed Nuts, Lightly Salted, 18 ounces, now on sale for $8.99), cheap perfume (Charlie White by Revlon Eau, De Toilette Spray, 3.4 ounces, now $9.99), laundry detergent (Tide Pods Detergent, Spring Meadow, $6.99), and toilet paper (Charmin Ultra Strong Toilet Paper, four rolls for $4.99), has decided to get into the health insurance biz by purchasing Aetna, one of the biggest health insurers in the country.

The Curmudgeon thinks this is a really bad idea.

The people who can’t even figure out how to have in stock everything in their weekly sales circulars think they’re smart enough to run a health insurance company?

The folks who staff their “Minute Clinics” with nurse practitioners instead of doctors, like most other urgent care centers, think they have any insight at all on how to care for sick people?

The folks who send you texts reminding you to pick up refills of prescriptions you haven’t needed in more than a year think they can keep track of anything more complicated than their inventory of razor blades, deodorant, and toothpaste?

The people who hang signs that say “Free flu shots today” when those shots are in no way free for many customers because they understand so very little about health insurance?

The folks who will record your purchase of a 25-cent pack of gum on a cash register receipt longer than your arm?

The people who tell you they’re out of the medicine you’ve just been prescribed when you’re sick and can have it for you in three days and then, when you ask them if it might be available at one of their other stores, just a three-minute drive away, look at you like you’re the smartest person they’ve ever met in their lives?

No, this is not a good idea. There is no one at CVS smart enough to run a health insurance company. Shoot, they can’t even keep in stock those little cards telling you that you have to go to the pharmacy counter to buy a small package of Sudafed (as The Curmudgeon discovered himself two Saturdays ago, around midnight).

CVS ought to stick to doing what it does best – okay, what it does with a modicum of effectiveness: selling tampons and condoms. It should leave real health care to the grown-ups.

P.S. After The Curmudgeon wrote everything above and posted it to appear today he received a phone call from CVS informing him that his prescription needed to be ordered and would not be available for several days (and by the way, how many days are there in “several”?). He visited the store and spoke to a clerk, who confirmed that the medicine was not in stock and, after some prodding, asked him whether he wanted the brand name or generic and agreed to call another store to check on its availability. She returned after several minutes and asked him the brand name/generic question again and then placed a second call to that same other store. After 30 exasperating minutes another clerk who had been eavesdropping on the conversation disappeared into the shelves and came back seconds later with the medicine in question in her outstretched. It had been there all along.

The Curmudgeon rests his case.

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