To buffer itself and its workers from spiraling health care costs, BMW AG will begin operating an on-site pharmacy this week at its U.S. assembly plant.
The move will allow 4,600 workers at the Spartanburg, S.C., plant to buy medicine through an office managed by health care services provider CHD Meridian.
While the company is not making the service mandatory, BMW spokeswoman Bunny Richardson said on-site prescriptions will be less expensive in some cases than prescriptions filled by other pharmacies. And employees will not be charged the standard deductible if medicine is bought at the factory.
She said BMW took the step to avoid raising the amount it charges employees for prescription coverage.
"Prescription costs are our fastest growing health care benefit cost," she said. She declined to reveal details of the company's various health care costs.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc. took the same step this year when it opened pharmacies in all of its U.S. plants. Large plants, like the 7,500-employee assembly plant in Georgetown, Ky., fill prescriptions during the same hours as the plant's two production shifts. Smaller plants in the Toyota system opened satellite pharmacies that fill workers' prescriptions within 24 hours.
Toyota's costs for prescription coverage rose 50 percent over the past five years, according to spokesman Dan Sieger.
He said Toyota is attempting to break even on the pharmacies. The automaker has taken on the role of wholesaler by having its pharmacists buy directly from pharmaceutical companies, Sieger said.
Toyota does not require employees to use the on-site pharmacies to fill urgent-need prescriptions, such as antibiotics.
But for maintenance drugs such as arthritis medicines or cholesterol treatments, Toyota workers must either use the on-site system or Toyota's mail-order system.
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