Prescription discount cards can save residents money

By Carlton Koonce
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

In penny-pinching times like the current economic downturn, every cent saved counts in Northeast Central Durham. The city and county of Durham have both recently unveiled prescription discount cards for citizens to ease the burden of high prescription costs.

The city began its discount card program in early December and the county began its program in early March. Although separate programs in and of themselves, both cards are accepted by a vast number of pharmacies in Durham including major chains and independent ones.

The cards can save residents up to 22 percent on prescription drug bills and can be printed off the city and county websites or picked up at government offices, area libraries, pharmacies, churches and many barber shops.

“The National League of Cities issues the city card and the National League of Counties issues the county card,” said Gayle Harris, director of Durham County public health. “Because people in the county couldn’t get a city card, a card was made for the county.”

“A decision would have to be made at the national level between the two organizations to merge the cards but it hasn’t happened yet,” said Harris. “But city residents can get both cards and choose which one is best.”

Harris said she will receive a notice once a month that shows how many people signed up for the cards and how much they have saved. Because the county’s program just launched, she has received no numbers as of yet.

Ethel Daniel is in her early 60s and has been living in East Durham for nearly four decades. She has been living with diabetes since 1991 and takes insulin to keep her healthy. She is the only person in her immediate family with the disease and says it is “not a fun thing to deal with.”

“My prescription changed so the company that manages it sent me a new [discount] card,” said Daniel who receives Medicare. “With Medicare my generic prescriptions don’t cost me anything and depending on the tier, name brands can cost me anywhere between $45 and $75.”

Daniel said she normally receives her prescriptions in the mail, which saves her money, and that it usually takes about a week to arrive.

Daniel said she had not heard of the city or county prescription discount cards and said she received one directly from the pharmaceutical company to address her needs.

Harris said the program is a low maintenance one for administrators. The card provides immediate discount benefits at participating retail pharmacies and there are no claim forms to fill out. There are no income or age limits hindering residents from receiving a card nor a limit on how many times a card may be used. A family can use one card or have one for each member individually.

The cards can even be used to receive discounts on medications for pets if the medication is also used to treat human conditions. The cards cannot be used for non-prescription or over-the-counter drugs or in combination with Medicare prescription plans.

The discount prescription cards are not insurance plans and cannot be used with other insurance. They can be used to cover any lapses in insurance plans, however. Simply present the prescription discount card at the time of filling or refilling a prescription to save.

“If you have prescription drug coverage it won’t work for you unless there’s a medication that is not covered by your plan for whatever reason,” said Harris. “It’s not the answer to everyone’s prayer but it’s a tool in the box.”

“In these times people want to save money and get what they need,” she said.

The card can even be presented at Wal-Mart pharmacies to receive the lowest available price for medicine on that particular day and when buying $4 generic medication, the card holder will either pay $4 or the discount card price, whichever happens to be lower. The card cannot be used for an additional discount on the $4 generic prescriptions.

“Citizens should ask about options,” said Harris. “If there are other programs to help then also explore those. Ask doctors if there is any assistance of if they can get help for no charge.”

“If a person without insurance needs medication, they should try to get in a patient assistant program from a pharmacist. We just wanted to put this card in the community to help,” she said.

Daniel said she tries to keep up with events and programs going on in Durham and believes city and county governments should work harder to get the word out about projects like the prescription discount card.

“They should let the media know what they’re doing,” Daniel said. “They should put in on the local news and in the paper.”

Still Daniel agrees with Harris that citizens should explore all their options when it comes to saving money on their prescriptions.

“Drug stores usually have their own cards for people of a certain age,” said Daniel. “But if people aren’t covered, this [prescription discount] card can come in handy.”

Daniel said she is going to “look into” the city and county prescription drug cards as a tool she can also use.

A few local pharmacies that accept the city and county prescription discount cards in and around NECD include the Rite Aid Pharmacy at 3725 Holloway St., Gurleys Pharmacy Inc. at 114 W Main St, and the Kerr Drug at 401 E. Lakewood Ave.

A complete list of participating pharmacies can be found at the Durham county website. For additional information on the prescription discount cards visit the city or county of Durham websites or any locale where the cards can be picked up.

Weblinks: (city card) (county card) (list of participating pharmacies)