Niles Township drug program reaches savings milestone
Debby Karton (far right) of IPPFA Benefits talks about the success of the Coast2Coast RX Program Monday during a Niles Township Board meeting. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
COAST2COAST RX PROGRAM
What: A free prescription drug card with potential benefits for the entire family.
Cost savings on: Prescription drugs, lab and imaging tests, some pet medications, audio, dental and vision benefits.
More information: To check pharmacies by location and to obtain a prescription card online, access www.coast2coastrx.com/nilestwp/
Niles Township: More information can be reached at Niles Township, www.nilestownshipgov.com, or calling (847) 683-0073.
Updated: April 8, 2013 7:08AM
Some numbers are worth paying attention to and even celebrating, and for Niles Township government, that number is 1 million.
That’s $1 million that Niles Township has helped people save in prescription drug costs and lab and dental fees since adopting the Coast2Coast Rx program a couple of years ago. It isn’t merely the number that’s so impressive, but what it represents: badly-needed relief to those uninsured or under-insured who need prescription medication and other medical services.
“The program has helped so many people. It’s been amazing,” said Niles Township Deputy Clerk Kitty Kendrick, who helps administer the program.
Monday night’s Niles Township Board meeting included an update on the program and a celebration of sorts to mark the significant savings.
The program came to Niles Township because of a routine trip Niles Township Supervisor Lee Tamraz made to a Morton Grove pharmacy.
Waiting in line behind an elderly couple. Tamraz saw that the medication one of the seniors needed was too costly so the senior asked the pharmacist if she could buy just a portion.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget that,” he said. “It was heartbreaking.”
Tamraz pushed hard for adopting a prescription drug relief program to help township seniors and others under the same challenges. In the process, the township became a trailblazer for other government entities.
Since Niles Township pioneered the program with Coast2Coast, more than 32 other townships have joined, helping to save their residents significant money in prescription, lab, dental, hearing and vision costs.
Under the program, Coast2Coast provides a free prescription drug card that also includes lab and imaging tests often at substantially reduced prices. Even some pet medications are covered.
Not all prescriptions, though, are covered under the plan; those who get a card need to do some comparisons with their own insurance regarding each medication.
If people have multiple prescriptions, for example, they might use their own insurance for some medications and their new card for other medications to get the maximum savings.
For those who have no coverage for pharmacy drugs, the card is an even simpler process as no comparison is necessary. The card though is not intended to replace insurance, officials say.
The cards save on both brand and generic drugs although the greatest savings come from generic drugs. More than 60,000 drugs make up the program’s formulary and more than 59,000 pharmacies are part of the network, including all chain stores and 95 percent of independent pharmacies nationally.
An added bonus is that the township receives 50 cents for every prescription, which helps serve Niles Township residents.
“While the card is generally for people without health insurance, in some cases it may offer better pricing than certain health insurance plans,” Tamraz said. “So it’s important for residents to compare pricing whether or not (they) have insurance.”
As soon as the program was introduced, administrators saw the results not only in numbers but in stories.
Kendrick said that the card immediately saved her uncle $75 per prescription for several prescriptions every month. A woman took advantage of the card to save on medication that was not covered under her Blue Cross Blue Shield plan. There have been countless stories of this sort, she said.
The biggest challenge for Niles Township, after adopting the program, was to make sure township residents knew it was available.
Niles Township, which includes the villages of Skokie, Lincolnwood and Golf, and sections of Morton Grove, Niles and Glenview, has a population of more than 102,000 people so administrators knew it could help many.
As of March, 2012, more than 16,000 of them have taken advantage of the program. And then there is that eye-opening milestone in savings – $1 million.
It’s safe to say that people are catching on.