County to study drug cards
Used in only a few counties nationwide, the cards offer discounts on medications. But first, commissioners want to see if there is a downside.
By ABHI RAGHUNATHAN
Published August 3, 2005
BROOKSVILLE - County residents could get discounts on prescription drugs, diabetic supplies and even pet medication under a plan nudged forward by county commissioners Tuesday.
The County Commission's unanimous vote will prompt staffers and lawyers to examine a proposal that would allow residents to use cards provided by Caremark, a Nashville pharmaceutical services company. The cards would allow residents to get discounts on various medications. When staffers finish reviewing the proposal, the commission could vote to sign on and distribute the cards.
Jean Rags, the county's health and human services director, said the discount cards would be available to all Hernando County residents.
"We're just offering (residents) another tool," Rags said.
Although some commissioners said they wanted more information on any hidden downsides before they signed any contracts, the proposal attracted praise from every county commissioner.
"I am very positive about this," said Commissioner Nancy Robinson.
If county commissioners decide they do want to sign on after reviewing the legal details, they would have to approve a contract with both Caremark and the National Association of Counties.
Caremark would provide the drug discount cards and marketing material. Caremark spokesman Dale Thomas said pharmacies that agree to accept the discount cards pay Caremark a small fee each time a customer uses one of the cards to make a purchase.
Many retail pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens accept the discount card, Rags said.
So far, the discount card program has been tested in only a handful of counties across the country. Those using the cards saw an overall average savings of 19 percent on their purchases, Rags said.
Residents could use the cards while purchasing almost any prescription, supplies for dealing with diabetes or medicine for pets. Rags told commissioners that many other counties in the country were rushing to learn about the program.
Some commissioners wanted to know what Caremark got in return for providing the drug discount cards. They also wanted to know what costs the county would incur if it signed a contract.
Rags told commissioners that Caremark would take responsibility for marketing the drug discount cards and would provide customer service as well.
She stressed that residents would still have to look for pharmacies that offered them the best deals on medications. She also said that the cards could be distributed at sites such as pharmacies, clinics and senior centers.
Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at 352 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Last modified August 3, 2005, 00:36:17]
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