Dubuque County has new prescription drug discount program - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque County has new prescription drug discount program

Dubuque County residents received this card and a letter of explanation this week in the mail Dubuque County residents received this card and a letter of explanation this week in the mail

A new prescription drug discount program has people in Dubuque County wondering what it's all about.

By mail this week, every Dubuque County residential mailing address received a prescription drug discount card and letter of explanation.

The program claims to offer people the lowest available cost for prescription drugs.

Laure Lewis lives within Dubuque County and received the card this week. She has a full-time job with health insurance, she said, but her boyfriend has a different situation.

"My boyfriend is self-employed, and so insurance for him can be quite expensive, so I thought possibly maybe it might be something that he would use, and that's why we kept it and thought we'd look into it further."

The program is a three-year contract between the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors and a local company called MedOne Healthcare Systems, which is owned by Hartig Drug Company, with pharmacies throughout the Tri-State area.

Aaron Viertel is MedOne's sales director.

"This is a method by which people, primarily those who are uninsured, can receive discounts at participating pharmacies on medications for which they would normally pay cash or the highest price," he said.

The program is especially beneficial, Viertel said, to people who are uninsured.

"If they go to the doctor, they go to the pharmacy, they pay the cash price or the full price for those services," he said. "Those individuals could really benefit from this program, as this allows them to receive some discounts at pharmacies for some medications they need to have filled."

The letter of explanation people received says the program comes, "at no change to you or Dubuque County."

Viertel said MedOne paid for the cards and the mailing, but there is a benefit to the company.

"If our card is used and it is lower than the pharmacy's cash price, we do retain a network usage fee, and we use those funds to reinvest back in the program," he said.

Not everyone, however is on board.

Jim Miller is director of retail pharmacy services for Mercy Family Pharmacy. He said the county's new program benefits competitor Hartig Drug.

"I mean, it would favor Hartig from the standpoint that they own MedOne, and they get a user fee every time the card gets used," Miller said.

Dubuque County supervisor Eric Manternach said supervisors approved the program since people can use the card at any pharmacy in Dubuque, not just at Hartig Drug.

Miller said the program seems to place too much emphasis strictly on cost savings. He said while that is important, sometimes the least expensive drug is not the right one for a person to take.

Overall, however, both he and Viertel recommend people talk with their pharmacists.

Miller said to check "not only on the price, but make sure the product is actually what you need."

The program is especially designed for people who are uninsured, underinsured and those who have insurance but lack coverage for a specific prescription.

Supervisors and MedOne say people, "may not be used in conjunction with an insurance program in order to discount co-payments or deductibles," according to the information letter. In other words, if somebody already has coverage for a prescription, they can't "double-dip" and use this card, too.

MedOne has brought its program to other counties. According to a September e-mail from MedOne to the Dubuque County supervisors, people in Clayton County have seen a combined total savings of more than $630,000. Wapello County residents have saved more than $490,000. In Buchanan County, total savings have added up to more than $175,000.

Viertel said people with questions can either speak with their pharmacist or call MedOne Healthcare Systems at 1-888-884-6331 or the MedOne/RESTAT Helpdesk at 1-888-838-1016.

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