Centene Selects Express Scripts to Administer Pharmacy Benefits

Express Scripts will manage pharmacy benefits for about 20 million Centene members.

Centene has selected Express Scripts, the PBM business of Cigna’s Evernorth, to administer pharmacy benefits after a competitive bidding process, the PBM said in a news release. Beginning in January 2024, Express Scripts will manage pharmacy benefits for about 20 million Centene members.

Centene provides healthcare through commercial plans and government-sponsored plans, including Medicaid and Medicare, TRICARE and the Health Insurance Marketplace. Nearly all of Centene’s current estimated $40 billion in drug spending is with current PBM CVS Caremark, Centene CFO Andrew Asher said on an earnings call with investors.

With the new Express Scripts contract, Centene anticipates “savings that exceed previous expectations in 2024 and throughout the duration of the multi-year agreement," Jennifer Gilligan, senior vice president of investor relations for Centene said on the earnings call.

“This new partnership will allow us to innovate and re-design the way our pharmacy benefits are administered as we deliver improved value to our shareholders,” Gilligan added.

While Gilligan declined to list other PBMs vying for the contract, she said the company was “very impressed with how competitive the process was and the fact that we had multiple very good options.”

Express Scripts and Centene will work together to enhance early detection of health episodes, close gaps in care, and drive improved clinical outcomes, Express Scripts noted.

“We’re proud to partner with Centene to deliver greater prescription drug affordability and access for their customers,” said Amy Bricker, president of Express Scripts.

The new partnership comes on the heels of Kroger Health terminating its pharmacy provider agreement for commercial customers with Express Scripts.

“Since February, Kroger has attempted on dozens of occasions to negotiate in good faith with ESI (Express Scripts Inc.) — seeking a more equitable and fair contract that lowers cost, increases access, and delivers greater transparency — but there has been little to no progress to date,” Kroger Health said in a statement.

Express Scripts’ current proposal is “far out of line with comparable terms Kroger has with all other pharmacy providers, and far outside the industry standard,” Kroger Health added.