By Joel Hall
Last week, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners signed an agreement to enter into the National Association of Counties (NACo) Prescription Drug Discount Card Program. Once underway, county residents will be able to receive immediate, cash discounts on prescription drugs at participating pharmacies -- free of cost and regardless of income.
The discount cards, which citizens would be able to apply for at local libraries, health departments, and senior centers, will come at no cost to the county or taxpayers. The program, a partnership between CVS/Caremark, Inc., and NACo, has been used successfully in more than 920 counties nationwide, saving residents, on average, 22 percent off their prescription-drug costs.
Clayton Commissioner Virginia Gray -- a member of the NACo Human Services and Education Committee and vice chair of the Aging Subcommittee -- spearheaded the effort to bring the program to the county. She said it will help residents and senior citizens, who are currently "juggling" the cost of medication with food and other necessities.
"Look at the number of children we have without adequate health care and even the number of seniors ... ," said Gray. "We should have been enrolled in the program long ago.
"A program that costs the county nothing and saves the citizens hundreds of thousands of dollars ... what reason is there not to participate?" she said.
Citizens without insurance will be able to use the card to get discounts on many prescription drugs, and those with insurance will be able to use it to receive discounts on drugs not covered by their insurance plan.
A long list of local pharmacies will participate in the program, including Costco, CVS, Kroger, Rite Aid, Sam's Club, Wal-Mart and Walgreens pharmacies. Several independent pharmacies will also participate, including Christians Pharmacy and Trustee Drug, Inc., in Forest Park and Heart Pharmacy in Riverdale.
Clayton County Attorney Michael Smith said the program is already being used in DeKalb and Fulton counties. He said it would "roll out" in Clayton after a card design and a managing county department are selected.
"We're trying to identify exactly who is going to manage the program for the county," said Smith. "Once we do that, we'll be ready to go." Smith said, at this time, there is no "expected roll out date."
BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell said the program is sorely needed. "Locally and nationally, prescription drugs, in my view, are out of control," said Bell. "Sometimes, people have to forgo food to get their prescriptions filled. This is the first step among many others we will be taking in regards to helping citizens with their prescriptions."