Gov. Janet Napolitano is rolling out a comprehensive new discount drug program for seniors today -- one specifically designed to be not just cheaper than the existing state program but better in some ways than what Medicare plans to offer.
The new plan, dubbed CoppeRx, will have the same discounts of 15 percent for brand name drugs and up to 55 percent for generics.
Napolitano said the federal discount card, which will be available later this year, is forecast to offer savings of between 10 percent and 25 percent.
She also noted the new Medicare card will have an up-front enrollment fee of $30. Napolitano said the new program in Arizona eliminates the current $9.95 fee entirely — and even will give a pro-rata discount to seniors who already paid it.
The trade-off, though, is that RxAmerica, the private company that administers the state plan, will be able to charge a $3 dispensing fee, a dollar more than now. Napolitano acknowledged that beginning in 2006 Medicare actually will begin paying for prescriptions. But she noted there are gaps in that coverage.
The federal plan pays none of an individual's first $250 in expenses. And there is a "donut" where the government provides no assistance for drug costs between $2,250 and $5,100 per year.
That Medicare coverage plan actually is better for low-income seniors, with smaller deductibles and costs. But Napolitano said her new program also includes some provisions designed to give additional help to seniors of limited income.
She said Eli Lilly & Co. has agreed to allow Arizonans who are enrolled in Medicare who are older than 65 and earn less than $18,000 as individuals — $24,000 for couples — to buy Lilly medications for a flat rate of $12 per prescription. And similar talks are taking place with other drug companies, the governor said.
Napolitano also said the card could even help seniors who already have drug coverage through a Medicare HMO, as many of these plans have limits on the total amount of prescriptions covered.
Only about 15,000 Arizonans out of an estimated 1.1 million people who were eligible enrolled in the original program, which Napolitano unveiled earlier this year. The governor said that is because some people were discouraged by the $9.95 fee while others were unaware of the program.
Still, she said, those 15,030 people bought a total of more than 82,600 prescriptions and saved more than $1.1 million over what the normal cost would be.
Eliminating the fee takes care of one problem. Napolitano said the issue of program awareness will take care of itself as RxAmerica, the private company that administers the plan, mails cards to anyone with a driver's license who is at least 65.
She said the state also has a partial list of Medicare-eligible disabled Arizonans who also will get the cards.
Those who don't get cards, perhaps because they don't drive or are not on any state list, can call RxAmerica at (888) 227-8315 if they do not receive one by March 1.