The Free RX Discount Card: That nobody’s using

GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY- Health care is a hot-button issue these days, and many local residents find it increasingly difficult to address rising medical and insurance costs. Yet most of GT County citizens are unaware that help is readily available in the form of a prescription discount program that's free, requires no forms, has no limits, is available to all, and could net an average savings of 24 percent or more on their annual prescriptions.

The NACo Prescription Discount Card – created by The National Association of Counties (NACo) and CVS Caremark – is not an insurance plan. It's a prescription discount program provided free of charge and administered by counties that belong to NACo. Currently, Grand Traverse County is the only member county in northwest Michigan but the program is available to anyone, regardless of his or her county of residence, says Grand Traverse County Commissioner Christine Maxbauer. (Note: The card is only valid when used at pharmacies in Grand Traverse or in any other participating county in the contiguous United States, making for a total of roughly 60,000 pharmacies where the card is accepted.)

Maxbauer is a huge proponent of the program. She says she hands out the cards wherever she goes. "I always have cards with me," she says, "even in my backpack as I bike around town."

Maxbauer says the program has been in place in Grand Traverse County since early October of 2010, but she admits it's gotten off to a slow start. Only 111 people in Grand Traverse County have used the card since its inception last fall. Maxbauer says county commissioners are working to change that.

They've erected an informational display at the County Administrators' office on the third floor of the Governmental Building in Traverse City. And recently Maxbauer created an additional display – well-stocked with the NACo Prescription Discount Cards – at the Garfield Township Hall.

Some benefits of the card:

There are no age or income restrictions, and it even covers some pet medications. It cannot be used in conjunction with a cardholder's insurance plan, but it can provide significant savings on prescriptions that insurance doesn't cover. This is particularly good news for seniors as the prescription card can help fill gaps left by Medicare.

According to Sarah Ray, community outreach coordinator at the Grand Traverse County Health Department, the savings may be even higher than originally thought. "In the few months we've been tracking the program we've seen savings of almost 37 percent," Ray says. In dollars and cents, that's saved the 111 county citizens who are participating a not insignificant $3,463.78.

Interested? You can download the prescription discount card at www2.caremark.com/naco and then simply present it at a participating retail pharmacy when filling prescriptions. You'll pay the lower of a discounted price or the pharmacy's regular retail price. There are no claim forms to fill out and no limit to the number of times you can use it. The website even lets you look up an estimated price for medications. BN

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