Cash-Only Community Pharmacy Keeps it Weird

“Keep Austin Weird” is the official war-cry of independent business owners in Austin, Texas. Pharmacist Chris Johnson, owner of MedSavers pharmacy on 38th street, fully embraced the cry when he turned his pharmacy into the city's first “cash only” pharmacy. While most patients rely on employer or government insurance programs to help with prescription drug co-pays (over 11 million people are now enrolled in Obamacare), MedSavers does not take insurance anymore, just cash (and the occasional credit card).

Chris Johnson and team keeping it weird in Austin, Texas

Chris Johnson explains how he stumbled upon this idea: “People without insurance were paying the most money or walking away from care because they couldn’t afford it. I realized that the only way to charge less would be to violate an insurance contract, or just not work with them at all.”

And that’s exactly what Chris did, he stopped working with insurance providers. By cutting ties with the bureaucratic claims process, he was able to significantly reduce his business costs and pass the savings onto his patients, resulting in some of the lowest drug prices in town.

At first, it wasn’t easy to convince patients to pay cash. Chris had to reach new customers who embraced his weird idea. He spoke with local employers about the benefits and managed to tell his story on the local television news, and that’s when the idea took off.

Patients were initially skeptical of the very low prices they found at MedSavers. “Patients asked if I was importing medications from Canada or Mexico. They didn’t understand that most drugs are reasonably priced, it’s the insurance companies driving up the price,” Chis explains. “Our patients trust that we will give them a good price.”

MedSavers uses the Digital Pharmacist platform, so patients can order their prescription refills via a private label MedSavers mobile app and website. “Having a good online presence is critical. When we looked into companies providing websites and mobile apps, RxWiki’s Digital Pharmacist platform got great reviews from other pharmacies. That made the decision easy for us.”

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