Tennesse Drug Card Media Center
(Maryville) – Residents of Blount County and surrounding areas now have access to free discount prescription drug cards through the Blount Partnership.
The Blount Partnership Rx Card was recently launched to help uninsured and underinsured people afford their medications. The program provides savings of up to 75%.
If you'd like to get a card, stop by the Blount Partnership office at 201 S. Washington Street in Maryville or visit the Chamber's website to download one.
The card has no restrictions to membership, no income or age limitations and residents aren't required to fill out an application.
Friends and family who don't live in Blount County can also use the program from anywhere in the U.S. The card is accepted at over 56,000 national and regional pharmacies around the country.
Plus, the program can be used by people who have health insurance coverage with no prescription benefits, which is common in many health savings accounts and high deductible plans.
People who have prescription coverage can use this program for non-covered drugs.
FRANKLIN - Franklin would be the second Tennessee city to officially endorse a statewide medication discount card that can be used in pharmacies by the insured and uninsured alike.
Launched in Tennessee in 2007, the Tennessee Drug Card is a free pharmacy discount card program that residents can use without paying any fees \or facing income or age requirements.
If aldermen approve the endorsement, Franklin officials would add the city's logo to its cards and make the cards available at City Hall, local pharmacies and elsewhere.
Harry Sayle, Tennessee Drug Card program director, estimates Tennessee residents have saved an estimated $18 million on prescriptions by using the card so far.
Now, drug card officials want local cities and municipalities to support the card so they can reach more people, including the elderly and people who might not have access to computers. The card can be downloaded from the Tennessee Drug Card website.
"It's more about the awareness of it," said Sayle. "We want as many access points for folks as possible."
Livingston, just north of Cookeville, is the only other city to officially endorse the card.
Created by United Networks of America, the Tennessee Drug Card is part of a national drug discount program begun with money from pharmacy chains and drug companies. Today, United Networks of America touts more than 114.9 million members using its programs. Last year, the company estimated they saved drug buyers an estimated $1.31 billion dollars.
The program does not sell any of the card users' information, Sayle said.
People who might have concerns about the card should think of it as being similar to a coupon, Sayle said. Participating pharmacies will get more customers in their stores who want to buy medication, and customers can get discounts on their medications.
"It's a very, very pro-consumer program," Sayle said.
UNA claims the cards create an average 32 percent savings on retail prices for brand and generic drug prescriptions though that might be less than what a discount program through an insurance provider might offer.
"Typically most insurance discounts are better than this, but in some cases this might be beneficial," said Franklin City Administrator Eric Stuckey.
In Tennessee, the state Municipal League is helping cities get information about the program, said Carole Graves, TML spokeswoman.
"It was originally launched to help the uninsured and underinsured," Graves said. "But even for those with insurance, it can be used by people who have health insurance coverage with no prescription benefits, which is common in many health savings accounts and high-deductible plans."
Franklin aldermen still must vote on whether to endorse the program.
One more way for Tennesseans to save money on their prescription drugs has hit the market.
The Tennessee Drug Card program can provide discounts from 10 percent to 75 percent on prescription drugs, and nearly everyone can use it, said program director Harry E. Sayle, based in Memphis.
"It's designed to be as simple as possible for people to access and use," he said. "There's really not a lot of bells and whistles."
The vast majority of prescription medications -- brand-name and generic -- written by a doctor are covered in the program, other than new drugs just hitting the market, Mr. Sayle said.
The drug card program, introduced in Tennessee about three months ago, is offered in at least 15 states, he said. About 900 pharmacies in Tennessee participate, including CVS, Walgreens, Target, and Kroger.
The Internet-based drug card program originally was limited to customers who printed out the card from the company's Internet site tennesseedrugcard.com, but now Bi-Lo will accept the card if a customer only mentions the program, said Ryan Jumonville, president and chief executive officer of United Networks of America, the company that launched the program.
United Networks of America, a discount benefits company that offers a number of managed-care products, has partnered with nonprofit Health Access America to raise awareness about the card, Mr. Jumonville said. Pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies fund the program, he said.
Health Access America is a project of Health Leadership Council, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of chief executives in the health care field, regional coordinator Susan Everett said.
Many pharmacies are looking for ways to help consumers get discounts on their prescriptions, she said.
"I think that pharmacies are really very keen on anything that can help a patient not have to make the choice between buying groceries and buying drugs," she said.
CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said in an e-mail that CVS accepts a number of drug cards, including the Tennessee Drug Card, the TogetherRx card and a National Association of Counties card. CVS also has its own discount drug card for customers ages 50 and over who have no health insurance, he said.
Maurice Kopp, regional pharmacy manager for Bi-Lo, said the Tennessee Drug Card program seems to have been successful so far.
"It saves the customer a little money over our usual price. For us, it's a benefit because we get more people in our stores," he said.
The Tennessee Drug Card can help young people who are not receiving employer benefits and elderly people whose prescriptions needs are not being met by Medicare, Ms. Everett said.
"Any kind of discount they can get when they go to the pharmacy is a step in the right direction," she said.
Hamilton County began offering a prescription drug program in February that provides about a 22 percent discount to county residents on drugs not covered by insurance, Hamilton County spokesman Mike Dunne said in an e-mail message.
The county drug card, introduced in February through a membership with the National Association of Counties, has saved county residents more than $666,800, Mr. Dunne said.
The cards are available at more than 100 sites in Hamilton County including participating pharmacies such as Wal-Mart, Bi-Lo and CVS, county libraries and the local health department. For more information, call (877) 321-2652.
Michael Silence had a report in yesterday's paper (registration required) about a new prescription drug discount card program being offered in Knox County.
Details were sketchy, but it is apparently some sort of partnering between Knox County and an outfit called Advantage Wellness of America. WBIR had a follow up report with a little more information, noting that Knox County gets 40 cents per prescription filled, but incorrectly stating that it is open only to Knox County residents.
Michael Silence has another report today (registration required) with a little more information. It says that anyone in East Tennessee can participate, and that AWA gets 80 cents for each prescription filled and they pass 40 cents along to Knox County.
In all the articles praising Knox County for offering this new program, it says you can get up to a 75% discount on your prescriptions, and that this is made possible through "bulk purchasing".
Hey, this all sounds pretty great. So I checked the website knoxrxcard.com) and looked up my two prescriptions. According to the prices they had posted, I could save about $18 (which is approx. 10%) on one, and about $70 (which is approx. 70%) on another. These are for 90 day fills, so that's nearly $30 a month in savings for me if those prices are good. That IS pretty great, especially since I don't have insurance coverage for prescriptions.
So then I got to wondering, how can they do this? And why hasn't TennCare partnered with a company like this to reduce prescription drug costs? And who are these people, anyway?
So I started checking around. What I found was a murky, multi-level marketing sounding web of companies and services with an interesting business model.
According to AWA's website, they are a "privately held company located in Knoxville, Tennessee and a separate operating unit of United Networks of America, Inc." (as mentioned in Michael Silence's first article.)
According to their website, United Networks of America is "one of the largest providers of value added managed care products and services in the United States." They also provide "Consulting, Development, Franchising, and Request-for-Proposal (RFP) services." From this, I'm guessing AWA is a local franchise of UNA?
(And here's an interesting profile of the Baton Rouge company and its founder, whiz-kid entrepreneur Ryan Jumonville. There's a Knoxville connection. He attended U.T. on an athletic scholarship, and more recently "split the cost with former UT baseball standout Todd Helton of $6.4 million-worth of free membership in UNA's Tennessee Dental Plan for the UT system's 14,000 employees through 2007".)
And look at this. UNA offers a discount drug card similar to the KnoxRX card called UNARxCard, that anyone can sign up for by simply entering your name and e-mail address. (If I were the local franchise, I probably wouldn't be too happy about this competition from my franchiser.)
I got one. They generate a web page that you print out with an official looking card with official looking member, plan, and group numbers and a toll-free number you or your pharmacy can call if there are questions. I called my local pharmacy and they said they accept it. I'll let you know if the savings are true the next time I fill my prescriptions.
But wait, there's more. When you click on the links at either UNARxCard.com or KnoxRXCard.com to find out about participating pharmacies in your area and to check prices, you are taken to a website run by an outfit called "HealthTrans".
So who is HealthTrans? According to their website, they are a pharmacy benefits management company, whose services "optimize benefits administration, providing web-enabled applications, coupled with clinical expertise and services. Our services complement existing medical claims and pharmacy systems, and other legacy systems. We offer a cost-effective alternative to the burdensome efforts of acquiring, converting, operating, and maintaining an in-house system, as well as providing the required IT infrastructure."
So, the relationship between AWA, UNA, and HealthTrans isn't clear, nor is their relationship with Knox County or how all this works. And all of these are privately held companies, so there's little financial information available (although some of HealthTran's press releases make you wonder if they are planning to go public.)
And I'm still puzzled about who is paying for all this and who is making money and how. Pharmacy discounts don't just fall out of the sky, and AWA and UNA aren't charities -- they're businesses looking to make a profit. Who pays AWA the 80 cents per prescription they are splitting with Knox County?
One possible clue can be found at HealthTrans' website. They say they run "transparent" pharmacy benefit management for their insurance and large employer/group clients, meaning that all pharmaceutical company rebates are disclosed and passed on to their clients. Rebates? What rebates?
Here's an interesting article that talks about HealthTrans's business model. Apparently there's a vast and deep well of pharmaceutical manufacturer rebates available for PBM programs and others who promote one drug or another in their formularies and benefit programs. And apparently there's a whole industry built around dipping into this well as part of providing prescription drug benefits.
According to the article, "transparent" PBM programs say they pass the rebates along to their clients and make their money by charging a flat fee for transactions and claims processing. Since, according to local media reports, Knox County and AWA are receiving a per-transaction fee that they split, and there is no cost to the consumer, and the drug store chains are presumably not paying a fee (ed. note: actually they do, see the update), that leaves the pharmaceutical company rebates.
So one logical conclusion is that this is a rebate-fueled deal negotiated with pharmaceutical companies by HealthTrans, and provided to clients by AWA/UNA. This is just speculation, though, because the media reports are, as I said, sort of sketchy on details. I e-mailed AWA with these and other questions about how it works, and will let you know what they say if/when they respond. (Ed. note: This is only partially right. See the update for their response and explanation of how it works.)
Anyway, there's nothing wrong with any of this per se. I'm happy to save $30 a month or so however they do it, as long as it works as advertised and there isn't a "catch". I only wish I had known about it sooner. And I still wonder why TennCare hasn't done something like this, or implemented their own "bulk buying" program. Of course, now Medicare is forbidden by law from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies, so that's good for private enterprises like AWA and UNA, I guess.
But however it works, it reveals one of the problems with our so-called "free market" health care system. Three different people can walk into a drug store, one with insurance, one with an Rx discount card, and one with nothing but cash in their pocket, can all buy the same drug and all pay a different price. How is that a "free market" exactly?
And why is it that someone buying on a multi-level marketing plan (which they enrolled in by simply typing their e-mail address on a website) pays less than someone paying cash for the same product delivered to the same location and sold by the same pharmacist? It doesn't make any sense. Why can't pharmaceutical companies make the discounts and/or rebates available directly to the consumer (I guess some do) or better yet just dispense with all the craziness and just lower prices across the board? What a complicated mess.
The 2014 Pharmacy News Today "MAN OF THE YEAR" is Ryan Jumonville, Chairman of United Networks of America
During his tenure as CEO of United Networks of America, Jumonville built United Networks of America (UNA) into the largest affinity and health networking companies in the country. In 2012, Jumonville stepped down as CEO and transitioned into the position of Chairman. The move was strategic as he planned to dedicate more of his time to his family, philanthropy, and strategic acquisitions. The move turned out to be a big success on all fronts.
Jumonville has led UNA to four significant acquisitions during his short tenure as Chairman. Most of the acquisitions have been in the Rx division of UNA which is known as UNA Rx Card. This has helped solidify them as the national market leader in that business segment. UNA Rx Card is responsible for most of the innovative changes in the prescription cash card industry. They are considered a pharmacy friendly plan and have always made client value a priority. These are rare attributes in the Prescription Benefit Management (PBM) community where revenues almost always win over values.
In addition to his new role as Chairman, Jumonville committed more of his time to philanthropic causes. He donated one million meals to the Food Bank, built houses for single mothers, built fresh water wells in Africa, donated scholarships to children of deceased U.S. military service members, supported children's healthcare, and much more. The American Cancer Society, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Warrick Dunn Foundation and Desire Street Ministries have each recognized him with awards for his generosity and support. In all, he contributed and provided support to dozens of charities and aid organizations.
Despite having a busy schedule Jumonville prefers to be known as a consummate family man. His greatest joy is to spend time with his two children, Jayden and Gavin. He makes the time to drop them off at school each morning. He is expecting his third child in October of this year.
As an industry leader, Jumonville is admired for having found the prescription for success both professionally and personally.