Essex County first in state to offer discount prescription drug program free of charge

September 6th, 2012

All Essex County households should have received discount prescription insurance cards in the mail last week. The cards come at no cost to taxpayers or anyone who uses them, and, the added bonus: Non-Essex County residents can reap the benefits, too. Those residents need only go online, enter their first and last names and then print out the card that appears on the computer screen.

While county residents have been advised of the new program, representatives from Terry's Family Pharmacy in Verona, the Medicine Shop in Cedar GroveShort Hills Pharmacy in Short Hills and Good Health Pharmacy inBelleville said that they had no idea what it entailed.

The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. unveiled the discount program – offered via ProAct, a subsidiary of healthcare company Kinney Drugs – last week. The service is open to residents regardless of age or income, according to ProAct Program Manager Elison Rodriguez.

"It's just that Essex County has the official relationship with us, so their seal and name is on the card," Rodriguez said to the Times.

The card can only be used by a person who would have to pay full price for a prescription medication, Rodriguez said. The card cannot be used to lower the co-payment required by a patient's primary insurance coverage. However, if primary insurance will not pay any money toward a particular medication, then a patient can use the Essex County/ProAct card to help defray out-of-pocket costs.

The discount program covers all prescription medications, brand or generic, and even covers prescription pet medications that can be filled at a regular retail pharmacy, according to Essex County Spokesperson Anthony Puglisi. On average, participants can expect to save 10 to 20 percent on brand drugs and 20 to 70 percent on generic drugs.

"If it helps the people of Essex County, then I'm all for it. And they'll all be able to use it," said Essex County Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold, explaining that the freeholder board pursued ProAct after hearing about the program at New Jersey Association of Counties meetings. When asked how the program is funded, though, Sebold could not answer.

"Look, I'm just guessing, but doesn't it work like regular insurance," Sebold said, explaining how she receives prescription benefits from the state because she is a retired teacher. When a reporter pointed out that the state pays for those benefits, and that all insurance benefits are paid for by someone, Sebold referred the reporter to ProAct.

ProAct is funded by pharmacies that choose to accept its discount card, Rodriguez said. Over 60,000 U.S. pharmacies – part of the Restat network – are listed on ProAct's website as being plan participants by virtue of an agreement between the two, Rodriguez said. Participating pharmacies "sacrifice" part of the profit they make off of people who pay full price for prescription drugs in order to offer the discount to others.

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