Publix supermarkets announced today that the company will begin giving away seven popular prescription antibiotics. The articles on this development note that WalMart has been selling a number of popular generic medications for $4, and that several other pharmacies have moved in the direction of low cost/free prescriptions.
Amidst the laudatory statements of improving access to important medications, one notes that these seven medications represent nearly 50% of the generic prescriptions filled by Publix. Have you ever tried to comfort a crying child while waiting 15-20 minutes for a simple prescription to be filled? The reason it takes so long is the mind-numbing level of paperwork and authorizations a pharmacy must go through to get insurance authorization.
By making the medication free, Publix eliminates the need to deal with insurance issues on a massive volume of its pharmacy business. I don't know how much employee time this frees up for Publix, but I'm sure it greatly exceeds whatever the company pays for these generic medications. Fortunately, this is one of those rare cases where cost containment will actually lead to a better customer experience.