My CVS pharmacy won't answer its phone

I’m trying to get my local CVS pharmacy to supply me with glucose test strips under Medicare Part B. I’m two weeks into this project with no success to report yet. I initiated this quest with this particular pharmacy since it successfully supplies my insulin under Part B.

Part of my challenge is that this pharmacy will not pick up their phone. I have twice in the last two weeks actually walked over to the pharmacy and waited in line so that I can talk to the pharmacist face to face.

While making these unplanned visits, I hear an automated announcement about incoming calls that are not getting answered. I see what’s happening. The pharmacists are working diligently with the customers who show up. I can only conclude that they are understaffed.

I lay the responsibility with management who does not hire enough people to satisfy this operational demand. I called corporate CVS this morning and after 25 minutes on hold, finally talked with a live person. They conceded that they are dealing with a labor shortage. I asked why they don’t offer higher wages and the response was that they already pay their staff well.

I don’t think that corporate America is ready to deal with the reality of a labor market that has turned against them. They rode the wave for decades when the balance of power in the market favored them. Now they just want to whine about not enough workers. What they really mean is there’s not enough workers who want to work at the wages they want to pay. They need to recognize this market reality.

I just can’t live with a pharmacy that won’t answer its phone!


My Walgreens both in MN and AZ still answer the phone although I am occasionally on hold for 5-10 minutes. I am still comfortable going into the pharmacy as long as I am masked so I would probably go to the pharmacy in person.

I have not tried to get test strips since Dexcom stopped providing our sensors and included test strips. I have been told that you can get test strips from whatever supplier is providing your sensors. But of course you have to get whatever brand they supply. I am still using test strips that are out of warranty but they seem fine.

I will most likely start using a Walmart meter once I run out of Contour strips. But except for the first day of a sensor, I rarely test and probably will be able to go a year with my current supply of expired strips.

For sure I am not one of those people who never test and my terrible first-day Dexcom results require it. But from Day 2-10, I rarely use my meter.

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A corporation really needs to be looked at as a service that receives money from customers, and doles it back to the vendors and employees. To perform that service they get a commission, more commonly called profit. Greedy corporations that make a big profit, in most circumstances, get replaced over time by another less complacent, more aggressive corporation that can produce the same product or service better, faster, cheaper.

My companies take very little profit, in the 1-3% range and the top executives and managers are compensated including all options, no higher than 2 times the lowest compensated employees in the company. Our starting wages have increased 38% in the past year and we are doing everything we can to hire and maintain US based employees. My companies are small and global so the workforce has been partially automated and virtually all intellectually based employment has needed to be moved to our offices in China and India in order to be able to offer our customers a great experience, on time at a reasonable rate. We would love to see job growth at a faster pace in the US, but that is not going to happen under current political and economic climate.


A 5-10 minute hold seems reasonable to me. Going beyond 20 minutes does not seem reasonable.

Yeah, I accept that I may not be successful in getting my Part B test strips but I need to make this attempt. I may need to find another pharmacy to replace CVS.

I test several times during the 2-hour warm up period so that Loop continue with its automated dosing. I also test each morning to gain confidence in the CGM’s tracking or apply a calibration to help it remain accurate. I am just not OK going days and days without a fingerstick and assuming the CGM is good enough for Loop.

I’ve also read that supplying strips under Part B is only available from your CGM sensor supplier. My current effort is in part a test of that belief.

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The chain pharmacies are stretched super duper thin. Staff are quitting after low pay and long hours with no possibility of advancement or a pay raise. The staff that remain are often doing vaccine duty.

You may be able to hook up with a non-chain pharmacy and get more attention BUT there are dang few left. In my major urban area there are are a couple that specialize in various areas. They have the advantage that they may be on good terms with the prescription and tech folks at your endo practice.

I get pretty quick service at Costco.

My last trip to CVS was about 20 minute wait and when I arrived, drive-thru line was empty! When asked, they have responded of staff shortage, even with openings.

CVS is closer than Costco, and Costco doesn’t have drive-thru, but Costco is generally quicker with pickup. And the extra goodie samples are worth it.

That makes sense in a free market that is undistorted by the power of a few corporations that dominate a business sector. The pharmacy sector is comprised of a handful of companies with lots of power. 2006 legislation denied Medicare the ability to negotiate prices based on its purchasing power. That market distortion continues to haunt us today with the highest prices, by far, of insulin in the world.

It looks to me that the markets that you operate in share precious little with the US pharmacy/pharmacy benefit managers/ pharmaceutical companies.

What do you mean? That the profit margins are super thin at the national pharmacy companies? I find that difficult to believe.

For example, I pick up four 10mL vials of Apidra insulin every quarter at CVS. They get paid a total of $860 from Medicare and my supplemental insurance plan. I suspect that CVS is getting that same insulin at a pretty deep discount.

I will look into the non-chain pharmacies in my town. I appreciate this suggestion.

@MM1 – Your Costco suggestion is interesting. My proximity and access is a little tenuous. It takes about 45 minutes on public transit to get there but I do go there 3-4 times per year – about the same frequency as my quarterly runs to pick up Part B insulin. I wonder if Costco is up to the Part B insulin challenge.

To clarify, I feel sorry for the CVS pharmacy techs who are 300% overworked thus “stretched thin”. I do not feel sorry for the CVS company!


CVS gross profit margin is very good, around 20%
Their stock is around $100.00 a share with EPS of $8.00
Karen Lynch made $11,307,916 in total compensation as Director, President and Chief Executive Officer at CVS Health Corp in 2020. $3,752,615 was received as Total Cash, $7,471,338 was received as Equity and $83,963 was received as Pension and other forms of compensation.

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This is a good reminder, @Rphil2. There are always other facets to a story.

Have you used the CVS app? You can request prescription refills and prescription renewals where they will reach out to the doc and get the new prescription. Test strips shouldn’t require a conversion with the pharmacist.

I don’t know the in and outs of medicare or your situation, but I had very good luck doing everything through the app.

But regardless, I agree stores should answer their phones.

The complication, @Jim26, is my effort to get these strips filed and paid for using Medicare Part B. I’ll look at the app, but not likely – even the pharmacists are scratching their heads.

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I understandand probably speaks to how screwed up the system is. Test strips should be the easiest item for medicare and pharmacies to process and should require very little overhead.

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These are tough times, and yes, there are currently labor shortages that will continue for a while. There have already been good posts about that. I will say I get decent service from Walgreens Pharmacies, though I believe they too are understaffed.

In the meantime, if one is willing to change meters, the OneTouch 2 meters now have two sources of test strips. I use GenUltimate strips I get from Amazon -

Bought in quantity, they cost me 18 US cents per strip. I just skip insurance and buy them myself. By the way, when I first started using GenUltimate strips, I did a lot of tests using both OneTouch and GenUltimate strips. The latter are every bit as accurate as OneTouch strips. But one must remember to set the meter’s code to that printed on the strip bottle. I have read some posts where it was clear they failed to do that and were then upset about accuracy.

This is clearly not a solution to your problem, but it is an alternative. I have a Dexcom G6 CGM, so I use these tests only to calibrate a new sensor or if the CGM measurement does not match how I feel. So I don’t use many strips per month and the above supply lasts me a long time.

I have considered buying my strips out of pocket like you’re doing. I have many things competing for my health care dollars these days and if I can utilize insurance to pay for my strips, that helps.

You mention the OneTouch strips by Lifescan. The Diabetes Technology Society did some tests of select meters a few years back. Two Lifescan meters were among those that failed.

Accuracy is important to all of us. My glucose meter calibrates my CGM and my CGM drives my automated insulin dosing system, Loop. I check my meter/strip system against the lab when my doctor orders a blood glucose test. My meters have been close to the lab values.

Thanks for the suggestion but I’ll fight for my preferred strips and if insurance ultimately doesn’t cover, I will pay the premium price – it’s worth it to me.

I’ve read a couple of different things on getting success getting test strips. One, using your sensor supplier. Two, having the prescription written for exactly 3 strips per day. Three, having the prescription written to specify backup for CGM. Will be interested to hear about your experience.

The Medicare Part B language specifies 300 strips for 3 months for insulin users. My doctor ordered 300 strips for 3 months because I told him that pharmacies will play games with the quantities. Three strips per day is about 30 strips less than 300 for 3 months.

The game my CVS plays is they’ll round down, in this case to 250 strips and then call that a 76-day supply. They did this with my insulin Rx. My doctor orders 50 units/day which comes to 4.56 vials for three months. So instead of rounding up to 5 vials, they round down to 4 vials and call that an 80-day supply.

It’s not a big deal but it does mean that I have to deal with my insulin order 4.6x/year instead of 4x/year. Oh, the first-world troubles we suffer! I should just be happy that I have all the insulin I need with zero dollars out of pocket and I maintain a plentiful “safety stock.”

I completely gave up trying to get medicare to pay for test strips. Since my secondary is a commercial plan, that plan wants test strips and insulin as prescription only.

So Medicare approved them as a durable equipment. Then sent the balance to the company, who promptly rejected it. At one point I owed the pharmacy about 3K because they held rejections for about 4 years.

i called and argued many times the they wanted medicare to write these down. i finally got my insurance to pay after about 18 months of fighting. I was like, oh yeah, naw, I will pay the copay. How ridiculous.

I use the CVS that is only 3 blocks away. The way that I beat the lines is to go there early on a Sunday or Saturday morning.