Discount prescription drug cards available

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Free prescription drug discount cards are available to peninsula residents at borough offices, hospitals and libraries. To find a participating pharmacy, call (877) 321-2652.

Residents of the Kenai Peninsula Borough are now eligible to acquire and use a free medical prescription discount card that could save them an average of 20 percent for drugs not otherwise covered by their insurance programs.

The discount program is offered through the National Association of Counties, or NACo, of which the borough is a member. The discount cards are free and may be obtained at the borough building in Soldotna, at borough satellite offices in Homer and Seward, as well as at hospitals and libraries among other places.

According to a fact sheet provided by the borough, there is no enrollment or membership fee. The cards may be used by any family member to obtain discounts on drugs.

Cardholders may begin using their discount cards immediately at any of 57,000 pharmacies that's about nine out of every 10 across the country, including many on the Kenai Peninsula. To find out if your pharmacy is a participant, simply ask, or call the toll free number (877) 321-2652 to find out about a specific pharmacy.

Assemblyman Pete Sprague, of Soldotna, is a borough representative to NACo and sits on the organization's board of directors. It was Sprague who first brought information about the program to the attention of the borough about a year and a half ago.

"I think it's a real benefit to the uninsured or the underinsured," Sprague said in an interview Tuesday. "Even a 20-percent savings can be a significant amount to someone who doesn't have a lot of funds."

Sprague regretted that initiating the program here took so long, but noted that there were issues to be resolved.

"The administration (of Borough Mayor John Williams) was just getting its feet on the ground and running, and the legal department had a lot on its plate as well," he said. "There were some legal issues they wanted addressed and those were answered satisfactorily."

Sprague said what was most important to him is that the program is now available to borough residents.

The discount program is administered by the pharmaceutical services company Caremark Rx Inc., which negotiates with participating pharmacies for a discount off their retail prices. Pharmacies benefit by drawing more customers. Caremark charges the pharmacies a small fee on each transaction.

The discount card is not insurance and it cannot be used in conjunction with a person's insurance coverage. That is, it can't be used to increase the discount already provided by an insurance program.

Its advantage, however, is that users can obtain discounts on prescriptions not covered by their insurance programs or by Medicare. People eligible for Medicare who choose not to sign up for a Medicare prescription plan may continue to use the discount card.

On occasion, pharmacies may have discounts from their retail price that are greater than provided by the card. In those cases, customers are guaranteed the lowest rate available.

Another element of the program is a safety feature that alerts pharmacists when one drug may conflict with another being taken by the cardholder. That feature requires that both prescriptions be obtained with the NACo discount card, however.

Also, cardholder information remains confidential and is never sold to a third party for any reason.

While the average savings is around 20 percent, savings of around 50 percent are sometimes available on three-month supplies of select generic drugs through the program's mail service. Savings are also available on high-tech and injectable drugs through the program's specialty pharmacy.

The card can even be used to obtain discounts on prescriptions for pets.

Further information about the card program is available through the borough.

Hal Spence can be reached at

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