Card offers discounts on medicine

February 11, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore County government and a private firm are offering a discount prescription card that could reduce drug prices by an average of 30 percent for county residents without prescription plans.

County Executive Roger B. Hayden and Michael E. Shavitz, president of the Montgomery County firm administering the plan, yesterday called the public-private partnership a national first.

"It's a biggie," Mr. Hayden said, adding that discounts range from 20 to 50 percent off retail drug prices and from 10 to 40 percent off wholesale prices. The size of the discount depends on the drug.

The card will cost subscribers $34.95 a year for an entire family and will be honored at most large chain pharmacies, including Giant, Rite Aid, F&M, Kmart, CVS, Pathmark, Wal-Mart, and Revco. Appointed county employees who don't receive health benefits will be able to buy the card for $29.95 per year.

The card also will be good for discounts on eye exams and glasses at United Optical stores, and on medical aids such as home hospital beds from other providers, officials said. The program offers a 60-day money back guarantee.

ProTec, a 3-year-old Burtonsville firm, beat three other bidders for the contract, including Express Scripts, which manages the prescription plan for Baltimore City employees.

Baltimore County will get $5 for each card issued and will spend the money on Department of Aging programs, Mr. Hayden said.

Although some of the other bidders offered cards at lower prices, Mr. Hayden said, they would have returned less money to the county or required the county to issue the cards and track the subscribers itself. Under the terms of its bid, ProTec will administer the program.

Mr. Shavitz said he and Stephen Brickell, his partner, have also met with officials from Baltimore City and Prince George's County and plan meetings within the next two weeks with officials from Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard and Montgomery counties.

He said his firm has marketing rights to the card from the Managed Prescription Network of Greensbury, Pa., which manages discount card plans for large firms that provide health prescription benefits to their workers. More than 100,000 cards have been issued nationally, Mr. Shavitz said.

With its large and fast-growing population of seniors, he said, Baltimore County was a logical place to start a public-private partnership.

Mr. Hayden and Arnold Eppel, deputy director of the county's Department of Aging, said officials had conceived the plan as a program for seniors only but eventually expanded it to all county residents.

The discounts offered through the program vary. For example, Mr. Eppel said, 180 milligram tablets of brand-name Cadizem, a common heart medicine, normally sell for $139.67 per 100 but would cost $119.23 with the discount card, a savings of about $20 or 15 percent. But a generic drug that normally sells for $6.86 per 100 might cost cardholders only $3.20, a savings of more than 50 percent.

Applications for the cards will be available starting Monday at county senior centers and public libraries. Residents may also get applications by calling the Senior Information and Assistance Office at 887-2594.

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