Ever had that uneasy feeling at the pharmacy counter when you’re not sure if a prescription drug is covered, and if it is covered, how much it’s going to cost?
It’s yet another of the joys of navigating the American health care system, and it’s an experience that SingleCare CEO Rick Bates is familiar with. SingleCare was started by Bates and a couple of silent partners in 2015 to bring transparency to the prescription drug market place.
“I had a number of personal challenges with my own family, not knowing what was covered and what drugs cost until I got to the counter, and my executive team shared in those experiences,” Bates said. “Our own insight into the industry enabled us to think through a better model.”
Bates believes as many as 100 million Americans can benefit from SingleCare’s approach to buying prescription drugs. He won’t reveal the company’s annual revenue, but says SingleCare already has “millions” of customers after four years in existence.
The company is headquartered in Boston’s financial district and has about 200 employees.
Bates, 49, had been working in the Washington, D.C. area for Catalyst Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefits manager that he helped build into a Fortune 500 company, taking the business public before it was acquired.
“I took a little time and figured out what I thought a really good new business opportunity would be, grabbed a group of key employees and we decided to launch the business four years ago,” Bates said.
SingleCare offers a pharmacy savings card for those customers who are going to pay cash for their drugs because they don’t have great insurance coverage, or are taking drugs not covered under their insurance plans and are looking for lower costs.
“What we’re able to do is identify the drugs we think people pay cash for most frequently,” Bates said. “The real purpose of our business here is to create the most affordable option for consumers.”
While Bates concedes that SingleCare isn’t always able to deliver the lowest cost, especially when people have good insurance, the company has been able to deliver consistently low prices and “improve access to care.”
“It’s very important to improve consumers’ ability to adhere to a drug regimen and take refills and make sure they stay healthy,” Bates said.
SingleCare has deals with Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, Kroger and Rite-Aid, representing more than half of the pharmacy locations in the country. Bates says the reason pharmacies are willing to work with SingleCare is because the company partners with them to “deliver consumer value and support foot traffic in their stores.”
“The way we’ve approached our business model is to eliminate as many other middlemen or partners as possible so we could work directly with the retail pharmacies and deliver a lower cost of prescription drugs to the market, creating more value to the consumer,” Bates said.
Bates said SingleCare has been operating in “stealth mode” up until now, but going forward the company will “step out and be a lot more public,” investing “significant dollars” in television advertising and other advertising mediums.