by Chris Chase
Coastal Journal staff
ROCKLAND — The Knox County Emergency Management Agency recently announced they are expecting to cross the $100,000 resident savings threshold later this year through their Prescription Drug Discount program.
The program, which any resident of the county is eligible to be a member of, has so far saved over $86,000 for residents of the county since 2008, with no cost to the county or to taxpayers.
The county’s savings have been generated by utilization of a National Association of Counties (NACO) program which allows counties that are members of the organization to give their residents discounts on prescription drugs.
“We were looking for any way we could help return money to taxpayers,” said Ray Sisk, the director of the Knox County Emergency Management Agency.
With rising fuel costs and other financial burdens forcing increasingly tight budgets for many residents, county government was looking for any way to allow residents to save money in their everyday lives.
“It looked like a good deal for residents, it didn’t cost [the county] anything, and it didn’t cost residents anything,” said Sisk. “Just by virtue of residence in the county, you’re eligible.”
In order to receive the savings, all a resident needs to do is acquire a card for membership, and use it the next time they pick up a prescription.
“We’ve passed out about 12,000 of these things, pretty much by hand,” said Sisk of the cards.”
According to the numbers that the agency has, the cards have allowed residents to save around 25 percent on the prescriptions they have used them for. While it doesn’t always provide a discount, according to Sisk, they provide some savings at least two-thirds of the time.
The program itself works through the NACO, which is a member organization for counties across the U.S. Started as a pilot program back in 2004, the program has overall saved $512 million on 41 million prescriptions, according to Andrew Goldschmidt, director of marketing for NACO.
According to Goldschmidt, the organization felt the program was doing so well they should allow all member counties to participate.
Utilizing a partnership with CVS Caremark and participating pharmacies, the program is meant to help uninsured or underinsured county residents who may have trouble affording prescriptions.
“The resident presents the card at the pharmacy, they compare their price versus the card’s price, and they give the resident the lower of the two prices,” said Goldschmidt. “About 75 percent of the time the card will have the lower price.”
In addition to allowing residents to save money on their own prescriptions, it can also apply to prison inmates, allowing large savings in county jails. Pet medication will also often be covered if it is a medication similar to those used by humans.
Sisk feels that membership in the program would be much higher in Knox County if more residents knew about the program.
“We just want to keep the message out there. It’s no cost to the taxpayer or to a resident. All it can do is provide some extra savings they might not have otherwise,” said Sisk. “As far as we can tell, it’s all good.”