Drug plan reactions mixed

Christina Calloway: Staff photo Wal-Mart Pharmacy Technician Kendra Lopez fills a prescription Tuesday afternoon in the store’s pharmacy. The pharmacy will be accepting the Coast2Coast discount prescription card. Coast2Coast has been operating since 2006.

Christina Calloway: Staff photo
Wal-Mart Pharmacy Technician Kendra Lopez fills a prescription Tuesday afternoon in the store’s pharmacy. The pharmacy will be accepting the Coast2Coast discount prescription card. Coast2Coast has been operating since 2006.

By Christina Calloway
Senior writer
ccalloway@pntonline.com

Roosevelt County officials are hopeful with the county’s participation in the Coast2Coast discount prescription card program, citizens will have access to low-cost medication.

“With health care costs on the rise, prescription drug discounts will help ease some of the financial burdens individuals and families are facing at a time when they need it the most,” said Roosevelt County Commission Chairman Kendell Buzard. “…The prescription card is expected to have a sizable impact on uninsured residents or residents facing high insurance deductibles.”

The card is free and made available to all Roosevelt County citizens at several public facilities. It has no eligibility requirements and boasts that users can save up to 75 percent on prescriptions.

Customers, however, cannot use both their insurance and the prescription card.

The county also benefits from the card because a royalty fee of $1.25 is paid to the county every time the card is used.

But one local pharmacist said the program, and others like it, hurt local pharmacies because they are charged a transaction fee for each time the card is used and the discounts often don’t offer customers much savings.
Zach Barrett, a marketing representative with Coast2Coast, said the company is a for-profit business, operating since 2006, and it uses county governments to promote and market the business.

Barrett said pharmacies aren’t mandated to accept the card and understands it’s common smaller pharmacies typically do not accept the card.
CJ’s Pill Box in Portales is one of them. Pharmacist and owner Tawnia Gaylor said it costs her business $2.50 to $7.50 each time the card is used.
She also said her cash prices are typically less than the discount offered and has only seen significant savings when the cost of the prescription is more than $250.

“It gives the perception that people are saving tons of money,” Gaylor said. “That’s the only time I’ve seen any significant savings and this has been over a seven-year period with these discount cards. There’s been numerous of them out there.”

Gaylor said the card may help in larger, metropolitan areas but she feels it does not favor smaller communities served by local pharmacies.
“I have found Roosevelt County and Curry County are very reasonable in our pricing and fair across the board,” Gaylor said. “We’re all just trying to make a living and provide our service and take care of our community.”

Barrett said the program is fairly new to the state, with Roosevelt County being the most recent county to join.
He said people forgo paying for medications because their other medical costs are too high and they simply can’t afford it. The programs aim to help those people.

Although pharmacies have to pay for each time the card is used, Barrett said it helps pharmacies indirectly because customers might purchase other items while there after receiving a savings.
He said the royalty paid to the county is an incentive to promote the program.

“We don’t only want to help with insurance, we want to help the community as a whole,” Barrett said.
He said bigger counties typically have higher usage of the card but he expects the card to be used 10 to 20 times a week.
“It will ultimately come down to the pharmacy,” Barrett said.

Kyle Boydston, pharmacy manager of the Portales Wal-Mart, said his pharmacy will accept the card.
“As a general rule, we try and take as many cards as we can,” Boydston said. “We want to help as many people as we can help.”
Boydston said since the program started last week, he hasn’t noticed much use of the card.