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Wednesday, 24 January 2007 00:00

Macon joins other participants in drug discount program

Written by 

Sarah Kucharski • Staff writer

A new prescription drug discount card soon will be available to Macon County residents.

 

Macon County commissioners approved county participation in the National Association of Counties Drug Discount Card program, which provides each county’s residents with an average savings of 20 percent off prescription retail prices.

“It is not insurance,” said Department of Social Services Director Jane Kimsey. “It is a prescription drug discount card.”

Cardholders pay the negotiated discount price or the pharmacy’s retail price, whichever is lower. They are eligible for higher discounts on a three-month supply of some medications through mail service. And cardholders also may save on pet prescriptions at participating retail pharmacies.

Almost any pharmacy accepts the card, which was created to help the un- and under-insured. Also, those who have fallen into the proverbial “Donut Hole” of the Medicare Part D program — a gap in coverage — may use the card during that time.

Caremark Rx, Inc., a leading pharmaceutical services company, administers the program. Caremark negotiates with pharmacies to offer discounted retail prices and derives revenue by charging a small fee that the pharmacy pays per transaction. The program includes a safety feature that alerts pharmacists when one drug may conflict with another medication the cardholder is taking, if the prescriptions were obtained using the discount card.

Discount cards are sent to participating counties for distribution. Macon County plans to distribute the cards from various locations such as Angel Medical Center, the senior services center and the public library. The National Association has a 1-800 number for customer support.

“The upside seems to be significant and the down side minimal,” said commissioner Jim Davis.

The program first began in 2005, but counties have gradually increased participation so that there are now 510 counties nationwide that provide the card. Buncombe and Swain counties implemented the program a year ago. Haywood County commissioners voted in October to begin participating. Haywood Commissioner Mary Ann Enloe heard of the program at a National Association of Counties conference this past summer.

“We are excited to be able to offer this program to Haywood County residents,” Enloe said. “The card can be used by all county residents, regardless of age, income or existing health coverage. One of the best features of the program is that it is available at no cost to county taxpayers.

Cards were made available to Haywood County residents beginning Jan. 1. In Macon County the program will begin approximately eight to 10 weeks after the National Association of Counties receives the contract from Macon County.

“It will be at least April,” Kimsey said.

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