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Prescription drug program a smart move

While a potential referendum to finance better health care services for the needy is on hold, Pasco County commissioners are correct to investigate alternatives.

They took a first step Tuesday when they agreed unanimously to participate in a program to help residents with the high costs of prescription drugs.

The county will partner with Caremark, a Nashville pharmaceutical services company, to provide a discount card that can save customers an average of 20 percent on their next prescription drug purchase. There are no claims forms to fill out and no eligibility requirements for the program called RxSavings Plus. Better yet, it costs the county nothing and participants need only pay a $3.50 processing fee. The intended beneficiaries are the uninsured or underinsured who pay cash for prescription drugs. It is a large pool of potential customers. An estimated 70,000 Pasco residents have no medical insurance.

The card acts as a coupon, giving the holder a discount on prescriptions and certain over-the-counter items not covered by insurance such as diabetic supplies and even pet medications. The card cannot be used in combination with other insurance or drug coverage, but it can be used when insurance does not cover a particular prescription.

Caremark earns a processing fee for the filled prescriptions and the pharmacies benefit from having customers drawn to their stores where they might do other shopping.

More than 150 counties nationwide are taking part. In December, Hernando County became the first Florida county to sign up. Government's role is simply to distribute the cards. They also will receive a report from Caremark on how many people are using the program. There are plenty of choices. Participating pharmacies total 48,000 including CVS, Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Publix and Kash 'N Karry. Caremark's Web site, offers more details.

"Every little bit helps," said Commissioner Ann Hildebrand who asked the board to authorize the county participation.

She is right. With prescription drug costs and insurance premiums rising, the county is wise to try to assist its most vulnerable residents.