The departure of Walmart and Sam's Club from the Tricare Pharmacy program leaves many Tricare beneficiaries scrambling to figure out where they will fill their prescriptions after Dec. 15, 2021. CVS is the pharmacy reentering the Tricare Pharmacy program on that date. CVS has nearly 10,000 locations across the country, but many beneficiaries are reporting that their nearest CVS is significantly farther than their nearest Walmart or Sam's Club. Plus, CVS has just announced plans to close 900 stores over the next three years.
What's a military family to do when they need a prescription?
For most of us, the answer is a lot simpler than it seems. The Tricare Pharmacy program includes not only the major players, but also local area chains, many grocery store pharmacies and a huge selection of independent pharmacies. If your small town has a mom-and-pop type pharmacy, there's a good chance it is a Tricare participating pharmacy, even if you don't think there's another military member for miles. And you can find all these participating pharmacies using the Find A Pharmacy tool on the Tricare website.
To test the coverage from all Tricare participating pharmacies, I picked one of the most remote, random places I've traveled: my family's homestead in rural South Dakota. Not surprising, there isn't a Tricare pharmacy in our zip code. Or even in our county, which has an average population of less than 10 people per square mile. But the closest Tricare participating pharmacy is located in a town that is about 15 minutes closer than the nearest Walmart.
By contrast, I looked up local pharmacies for my child in college in Manhattan. The closest Walmart location requires a 40-minute journey using a train and then a bus. But just within her zip code, there are 22 small-chain or independent participating pharmacy options.
As always, verify Tricare's information. As we all know, the Tricare databases aren't always completely up to date. Take a screenshot of the Tricare website showing that the pharmacy is a participating provider. Then, call the pharmacy and ask whether it is still on the Tricare participating provider list. The Tricare Find A Pharmacy tool can help you easily locate participating pharmacies that are closer to your home or work. As a bonus, you may discover that you can help support a local small business while you take care of your prescription needs. This change in major pharmacy contracts is a great time to give it a try and see what interesting options you discover.