Prescription drug costs can be a financial burden, especially for the estimated 200,000 Pinellas County residents who live without health insurance.
Now there's a new option for those looking to lessen that load, thanks to a program sponsored by the National Association of Counties.
Simply get a NACo Prescription Discount Card available at Pinellas health and human services offices, as well as state Health Department offices and other locations, and start saving.
There's no enrollment form, income limits, membership fee or restrictions on how frequently you use the card, which offers an average savings of 22 percent off the retail price of commonly prescribed drugs.
The card can be used at Walgreens, Costco, CVS, Wal-Mart, Albertsons, Target and other participating pharmacies in the county.
It may not be used in conjunction with any health insurance plan, including Medicare and Medicaid, but will help those seeking discounts on drugs not covered by their plans or who lack health insurance.
"We do so much work with the homeless and the indigent," said Lynn Kiehne, a county health care administrator, "this is something that we could offer to all citizens."
The National Association of Counties provides the discount cards through an agreement with CVS Caremark, a company that negotiates with pharmaceutical companies for price breaks.
When you present the card to pay for a prescription, you're entitled to the retail price of the drug being offered by the pharmacy, or the negotiated "card price," whichever is lower.
Though a pharmacy may at times offer a lower price on a given drug, the card price is the better deal 84 percent of the time, said Andrew Goldschmidt, NACo's director of membership marketing.
Built into the card price is a fee of $3.50. About a dollar of that goes to Caremark, Goldschmidt said, and the rest to the pharmacy.
"Obviously, Caremark makes money on this program," he said, "but we don't make any money on the program, nor do the counties."
You can also use the card to get discounts on drugs for your pets — as long as they aren't covered by insurance. That's because many medications, including certain antibiotics and antianxiety drugs, are prescribed to both humans and animals.
NACo took the card program nationwide in 2005. Today, more than 1,000, or about a third, of the nation's counties participate.
Hernando County was the first in Florida, back in 2005. Including Pinellas, the card is now available in 46 Florida counties.
"I'm very happy with it," said Jean Rags, Hernando's health and human services director. "It's been very helpful to a number of residents who are under-insured or uninsured."
Will Van Sant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 445-4166.