Pharmacy Times

Medicare Patients Are Swamped with Rx-Discount-Card Offers

Author: Ken Rankin

The nation's seniors are being swamped with offers of new Medicare Drug Discount Cards, including several developed by chain and independent pharmacy groups committed to maintaining community pharmacy's traditional stake in the Rx marketplace. All told, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gave a green light to the sponsors of 28 different drug-discount cards?each promising to provide seniors with a savings of at least 10% on their prescription- drug purchases.

Although most of the competing cards are being sponsored by pharmacy benefit managers and health insurance giants, both the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association also were granted approval to market discount plans affiliated with their members. Because Medicare recipients may sign up for only 1 card and may not change discount programs for at least 1 year, the more than 2 dozen competing sponsors have launched a major marketing push to sign up seniors for their programs.

For their part, federal officials are trying to help patients sift through the promotional claims. "We will make it as easy as possible for Medicare beneficiaries to choose the best card to meet their needs," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said in announcing the new discount-card sponsors.

The department is sending millions of Medicaid patients a detailed "Guide to Choosing a Medicare-Approved Drug Discount Card." It also has posted discount-card program information on its Web site, www.medicare.gov. Even so, pharmacists are certain to be flooded with requests from Medicare beneficiaries for advice in choosing among the various discount-card programs.