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Meg Farris / Medical Reporter

NEW ORLEANS -- If you have Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana for your health care, soon you might not be able to get your pharmacy benefits at Walgreens stores.

Walgreens and Express Scripts, the pharmacy benefit company that negotiates with retail pharmacies on behalf of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, are in a stalemate.

Walgreens says the two sides are far apart. At issue are two things. First, the terms of the contract.

'For example, on the terms, Express Scripts wants to be able to unilaterally define what a generic drug is and what a brand name drug is and that would be using something that is not the industry standard,' said Michael Polzin, a corporate spokesman for Walgreens.

The next issue, the reimbursement that Walgreens pharmacies would get.

'The rates that Express Scripts have proposed to us are actually below the industry average cost to prepare each prescription, and that's made us very far apart in terms of reimbursement,' Polzin added.

Blue Cross Blue Shield disagrees.

'We hope that Walgreens decides to fall in line with the other retail pharmacies that Express Scripts negotiates for on behalf of our customers and agree to charge fair and reasonable costs to our customers,' said John Maginnis, vice president of corporate communications at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana.

The two sides have until Dec. 31 to reach an agreement.

'We're certainly open to considering any fair offer that Express Scripts would present to us and we would be happy to resolve this prior to December 31st, but we remain far apart and we haven't received anything so far that is close to a fair offer,' said Polzin.

'We would be saddened to lose the Walgreens relationship. We go way back as partners, health care partners, but on the other hand retail pharmacy is a commodity these days and on average there is another retail pharmacy a half a mile away from every Walgreens,' added Maginnis.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana says it has seen many negotiations settle when deadline pressures get near, as was the case with East Jefferson General Hospital and BCBS.

For seniors with Medicare part D prescription drug coverage, open enrollment begins this weekend. They can choose the plan that includes the pharmacy they want to use according to Polzin.

People with HMO Louisiana, Inc. are also affected by these negotiations.

For more from BCBS, click here. For more from Walgreens, click here.

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