County mulling joining plan to help private prescriptions|[12/8/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 8, 2005

Warren County supervisors are continuing to discuss whether to lend the county’s name to a private prescription drug discount business.

Developed by the National Association of Counties, the program is designed to give the uninsured and underinsured a break on prescriptions at no cost to a county.

Residents can use the NACo Prescription Drug Discount Card to save 13 to 34 percent on brand-name and generic drugs in person and about 20 percent on brand names ordered through the mail, said NACo spokesman Andrew Goldschmidt.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Counties incur no charge for administering the program and the participant fills out no forms.

&#8220There are also no age or income restrictions involved with it,” Goldschmidt said.

At its meeting Aug. 1, the board approved a motion offered by District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon to join the program pending a legal review of all paperwork.

Board attorney Paul Winfield said the language in the opt-in contract asks the county to sign over its immunity to a third party, which is prohibited by state law.

&#8220That’s the flaw I’ve found in the contract,” Winfield said, adding that officials with NACo have told him of similar problems in other counties wanting to participate.

The third-party vendor for the program is Caremark R, Inc., a Nashville-based prescription benefits management firm that buys medications in bulk directly from their makers and distributes them through a network of 57,000 pharmacies nationwide.

District 1 Supervisor and board president David McDonald concurred, adding that it boiled down to transferring immunity to drug companies.

&#8220They’re trying to protect themselves against lawsuits,” McDonald said.

Dale Thomas, a spokesman with the firm’s corporate communications in Scottsdale, Ariz., said the issue was &#8220new to him,” but could not offer further specifics as to any immunity issues.

Since its inception in May following a pilot program involving 17 counties nationwide, 170 counties and parishes nationwide have opted into the program, with another 400 counties inquiring about doing the same, Goldschmidt said.

&#8220We’re getting three or four contracts in per day right now,” Goldschmidt said.

NACo further touts the plan because it comes at no cost to the county and residents do not have to fill out any forms. The cards are accepted at the 57,000 pharmacies in the Caremark network.

To date, Goldschmidt said the only NACo-member county in Mississippi that has fully signed on is Marion County, in the south-central part of the state. Another 13, including Warren County, have inquired about joining, Goldschmidt said.

Officials there have nothing but praise for the plan, saying they did not see any problems with the contractual stipulations.

&#8220I didn’t see a downside to it at all, nor anything that would affect the county’s immunity. We’re excited about it,” said Joe Shepherd, board attorney for the Marion County Board of Supervisors.

Calvin Newsome, board president of the Marion County Board of Supervisors, said the county &#8220would have definitely steered clear” of anything that would have violated state law.

Discount cards are expected to become available for distribution by Marion County to residents within six months, Shepherd said.

As for Warren County, Winfield said he suggested new language to the law firm that wrote the plan for NACo that he said would not affect the county’s immunity.

&#8220We would have to see the contract amended for us to get in it,” Winfield said.

The National Association of Counties is a service organization based in Washington, D.C., that acts as a liaison between local governments and the federal government on a variety of issues.

The Prescription Drug Discount Card program has provided $2.5 million in savings to residents in its participant counties since its inception, Goldschmidt said, adding he could not comment directly on legal issues in any one member county’s inquiry of the program.