The major drugstore chains want to be more than your corner pharmacy. They have come to play a central role during flu season. Now, they look to do the same when millions of Americans gain health coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
"The way they are going to do that is by helping encourage people who are currently uninsured to enroll for the exchanges and hope that that ultimately turns into higher script utilization in their stores," said analyst Ross Muken with ISI Group.
Walgreen's executives expressed cautious optimism about the potential impact of new insurance enrollment during their fourth-quarter earnings conference call Tuesday, the first morning of ACA open enrollment.
(Read more: Despite risks, Molina gambles on Obamacare rewards)
Kermit Crawford, Walgreen's president of Pharmacy, Health and Wellness, said staff in stores would be approaching uninsured pharmacy customers about getting covered.
"We certainly have our pharmacists and all of our people prepared to ask questions as members, and those who are impacted, come into our stories," he said. "We think we're going to play a key role."
Analysts estimate that 5 million to 12 million uninsured Americans could be enrolled in coverage over the next six months, between the government insurance exchanges and the expansion of Medicaid eligibility under ACA.
Turning uninsured customers into patients with coverage could result in a bump in profits from the drugstore chains' core business of filling prescriptions.