Super Net, the pharmacy network formed by supermarket companies to bid for third-party contracts, has hired Prescription Claims Management, Dallas, to administer Super Net, process claims and market the network to third-party-plan sponsors.
"One of the main reasons we chose Prescription Claims Management, apart from their ability to do the job, is that they don't have a provider network," said Terry Cater, president of Super Net and director of pharmacy for Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif. "They are going to talk about Super Net and nothing else. That was important to us."
"Our first objective is to increase participation of supermarkets in the network to approach 100% of companies with pharmacies," said Bob Mandernack, vice president of Prescription Claims Management, which was formed as a joint venture between Zadall Systems Group, Dallas, and Time Share Computer Systems, Minneapolis.
Mandernack, who is a pharmacist, has ten years' experience in supermarket pharmacy claims management, most recently as project manager of in-store systems for Dillon Stores, Hutchinson, Kan. Prior to that, he was third-party claims coordinator for Fry's Food & Drug, Phoenix, both divisions of Kroger Co., Cincinnati.
Super Net's membership includes 64 supermarket companies operating 4,000 individual pharmacies, including 1,000 pharmacies added in the last month, since Prescription Claims was hired to represent the network, said Mandernack. The company has two people working full time to market Super Net, with two more people expected to be added "within six months to handle the increase in business and volume."
Prescription Claims is currently negotiating several new contracts on behalf of Super Net, including one with a major insurance company.
In presenting Super Net to plan sponsors, Mandernack emphasizes what he sees as the main selling point for supermarket pharmacies: the high service level of supermarkets. "Most supermarkets will not allow a customer to be disappointed. With so many other areas within the store for one-stop shopping, supermarkets can't afford to insult a customer at the expense of what they might otherwise spend. To a third party, this means their clients will be taken care of," said Mandernack.
Another advantage of food store pharmacies, said Mandernack, is that customers are already in supermarkets once or twice a week. "Our goal is for supermarkets to be included in the networks," he said. "Pharmacy customers can then make a choice based on service."
"The bottom line is we want the opportunity to be in the provider network," said Cater. "We're willing to do those things it takes to be in the network -- to be price competitive, service competitive and care competitive," he said.
Prescription Claims Management will do online adjudication of Super Net member claims in most instances. The agreement with Super Net and Prescription Claims, however, is not exclusive. It does not preclude Super Net from partnering with another processor that already may be handling claims for a plan.
Prescription Claims Management and Super Net are first targeting those plan sponsors who represent supermarket employees, mainly organized labor, said Cater. Supermarkets employ 4 million people and provide health care coverage for another 6 million dependents, according to Cater.
Prescription Claims will next approach the prime vendors of supermarkets. "They have a vested interest in us succeeding," said Cater.
"Strategically, Super Net is much bigger than managed care," said Cater. "There's a format war going on in our industry among chain drug stores, mass merchandisers, club stores and supermarkets. Pharmacy is a tactical weapon in that format war. Pharmacy is one of the things that can keep people in supermarkets."
He added that as the role of diet in health becomes better understood and recognized, it could benefit supermarkets. "We can play a role in dietary compliance because we sell food products, such as produce, that can help achieve wellness," he said.
Super Net was formed in April 1992 by operators of supermarkets in California: Raley's-Bel Air, Sacramento; Safeway, Oakland; Save Mart, Modesto; Vons Cos., Arcadia, and Albertson's, Boise, Idaho.
Super Net has expanded considerably since then to include a majority of supermarket chains across the country. Membership is now open to all supermarkets that own pharmacies, regardless of size. Last year, associate board members representing the east, north, south and west were added to the board of directors.
New Super Net officers will be elected this week during the Food Marketing Institute Supermarket Pharmacy Conference in San Francisco. Cater has said that he will step down as president. A non-Californian is expected to be elected as Super Net's second president, reinforcing the organization's national scope.
Super Net's agreement with Prescription Claims "means that we now have all the pieces of the puzzle in place," said Cater, "yet we still have the flexibility to do other things. This is just the beginning for Super Net," he said. "It's not a time for the timid."