Anoka County's drug card offers simple way to save on medicine

  • Article by: MITCH ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 16, 2008 - 12:14 AM

A free discount card could help Anoka County residents save big on prescription drug costs.

The card, which Anoka County can offer because of its membership in the National Association of Counties (NACo), could cut between 13 and 34 percent off users' final bill, said Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah, chairwoman of the county's Human Services Committee.

"Prescription drug costs continue to be an ongoing concern for people who don't have health insurance and people who are underinsured, as well as our senior citizens," Sivarajah said.

NACo brokered the savings program with Caremark, a national health-care services company, on behalf of counties nationwide.

HOW TO GET IT:

Residents can obtain a card by calling the county at 763-323-5700.

No application is required, though residents must supply their name and address. One card can assist an entire family.

HOW IT WORKS:

The card cannot be used in conjunction with other prescription drug insurance, but it can reduce the price of medications not covered by insurance.

The card, which features the Anoka County logo, can be used at any participating pharmacy in the county. Residents can find participating pharmacies or get more information about how to use the card by calling the Caremark pharmacy phone number listed on the back of the card.

The drug discounts even apply to veterinary prescriptions for pets.

WHO MAY NEED IT:

Though the card is intended to help all county residents with medication costs, it may particularly benefit the approximately 26,000 senior citizens who live in the county.

Many seniors face increasing costs for their Medicare Part D drug insurance plans. The average premium increase in Part D drug plans will be 24.5 percent from 2007 to 2008, the Center for Economic and Policy Research said in a fall report. The average premium will jump to $293 a year, almost $58 more than last year.

In general, someone who has a Part D plan with drug coverage pays about 25 percent of costs until reaching $2,510 in annual costs, then all costs between $2,510 and $5,726 -- a gap called the "doughnut hole." Then the person has to pay 5 percent of annual costs exceeding $5,726.

Prescription drug costs are also on the increase, in particular for senior citizens. The costs of brand-name medicines most commonly prescribed to the elderly rose an average of 7.4 percent last year, the AARP said in a report in March.

"There's a lot of gaps in coverage plans," said Laura Zimpleman-Eng, a social worker with Anoka County Services for Seniors, "and this card maybe able to help in those gaps."

Mitch Anderson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.

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