Friday, July 18, 2003

Butler joins drug discount plans


Residents get cheaper prescriptions

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Butler County has signed up for a privately operated program that will give low-income people not on Medicaid access to prescription drugs at a small charge, and three other programs that will offer other county residents the chance to buy drugs at lower costs.

The county is spending $100,000 in federal funds for discount drugs programs offered by Prescription Relief, a private company in Marion.

For $7 per prescription per month, the company will provide medications to low-income residents not on Medicaid. Butler may be the first county in Ohio to offer such a program.

"This is a significant reduction from what they're paying now," said Jerome Kearns, assistant director of the Butler County Department of Job & Family Services.

County commissioners announced on Thursday the opening of the discount-drug programs.

The Prescription Relief program is designed for people with no other drug insurance coverage and with yearly gross incomes less than $16,000 for an individual or $25,000 for a family.

"It speaks to a very real need," Commissioner Mike Fox said. "There are thousands of people who have to choose each month - 'Do I pay my rent, or do I get the medicine I need?' "

Commissioner Courtney Combs said the program will help elderly people who can't afford their medicines.

"We're going to be amazed at how many people in Butler County need this relief," Combs said. "There are elderly and low-income people out there who take half a blood-pressure pill instead a whole one so they can buy food."

Pharmaceutical manufacturers offer free prescription drugs to low-income people, but the application process is complicated. Prescription Relief handles the transaction for its customers.

Programs for residents who earn too much for Prescription Relief are:

• Canadian Prescription Discount Program: For a $25 set-up fee, people can buy prescription drugs directly from Canada, where most of them are cheaper than in the United States, and receive them through the mail.

• MedPerks: For a monthly fee starting at $9.95, people can receive a MedPerks card that will entitle them to large discounts for prescription drugs at many local pharmacies. It also will provide savings on doctor visits, dental check-ups, vision and hearing care and some physician and hospital procedures.

• Diabetic Program: Diabetics on Medicare or Medicaid can receive their diabetic supplies without spending money up front. Prescription Relief will bill Medicare and send test strips, glucose meters, meter batteries and other supplies to people's homes.

People can apply for any of the four programs by calling a toll-free number, (866) 378-4686, or by going to www.prescriptionplan4u.com and printing out the application form. By the middle of next week, people can print out the application by going to the county's site, www.butlercountyohio.org.

LifeSpan, a Butler County social service program, will publicize and coordinate the prescription-drug program. Applications soon will be available from doctor's offices, churches and senior citizen centers.

"The key to this is spreading the word," Fox said.

E-mail skemme@enquirer.com




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