Families, retirees could be banned from military pharmacies because of coronavirus

Photo credit U.S. Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs

Retirees and military families used to picking up their prescriptions from base pharmacies should expect major changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Defense Health Agency. 

To "maintain patient and personnel safety," DHA said it was authorizing facility directors to use alternative pharmacy services, including: 

  • Setting up alternative pick-up options such as staggered pickup and curbside service;
  • Transferring non-active duty service members, family members, retirees and others to home delivery or non-military pharmacies;
  • Temporarily closing facilities altogether.

The pharmacies themselves have been asked to: 

  • Promote mail-order and retail pharmacies;
  • Hold virtual appointments; 
  • Encourage personal protective equipment use for staff interacting with patients;
  • Change areas where patients and customers are to promote social distancing; 
  • Provide early refills where appropriate;
  • Make plans to accommodate any high-risk patients;
  • Allow for prescription drop-offs. 

"DoD does not expect any of these limitations to be a routine practice but rather a case-by-case determination based on the severity of the spread of COVID-19 at a specific location," DHA said in a news release this week. "If pharmacy services are limited, they will be assessed as soon as it is safe for personnel and beneficiaries." 

Some pharmacies had already implemented the changes before DHA's public announcement. 

At Hill Air Force Base in Utah, the 75th Medical Group satellite pharmacy was providing curbside service as early as March 23. Uniformed staff in masks and gloves stood outside vehicles to help customers with their prescription orders in front of the base Exchange shopping center. 

Tricare users have several options to access their prescriptions, including Tricare pharmacy home delivery, which allows beneficiaries to order up to a 90-day supply of most medications delivered to their homes in most areas. 

Using delivery or retail pharmacies carries a co-pay for prescriptions.

Beneficiaries who already have a prescription at a military pharmacy can ask a retail pharmacy to call to make the transfer or call their doctor to get a prescription they can take to an outside pharmacy. 

Anyone with prescription questions can also call ExpressScripts 24/7 at 877-363-1303. Local military pharmacy contact numbers can be found here


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Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett.
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