Wisconsin Drug Card Media Center
The high cost of pharmaceuticals has gotten the attention of everyone from the president to doctors and lawmakers. But all have different answers on how to help patients afford the drugs they need.
President Donald Trump wants to tie certain Medicare drug prices to lower prices in other countries. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced Wednesday that she and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, are reintroducing a bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, like the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is able to do.
But the bill faces high hurdles and Trump’s plan is getting pushback from some in his own party.
With no immediate federal relief on the horizon, physicians in Wisconsin are trying to ease the financial burden for patients.
The Wisconsin Medical Society is touting a prescription savings card offered by United Networks of America in both Wisconsin and other states. The Wisconsin Drug Card is free and has been available in the state since 2010. Doctors worry that when prescription prices are out of reach, people sometimes split pills or go without.
"That really happens. When I was practicing it would happen to me," said Society President Clyde "Bud" Chumbley, who was a doctor in Texas before moving to Madison. "A couple times I would go buy the medication for a patient because they weren't going to get well without it."
The drugs he bought weren’t expensive, he said, but it's all relative. "If you don’t have $15, you don’t have $15," Chumbley pointed out.
The Wisconsin Drug Card — which is privately supported — isn't insurance. There’s a disclaimer on the United Networks of America's website noting the drug discount program is not a Medicare prescription drug plan, and is not run by or affiliated with any government program.
People of all ages can get the discount drug card, which the company said can save patients up to 75 percent on certain medications. The Medical Society is promoting the card as a means to help patients who don’t have insurance, or have coverage that doesn’t include prescriptions.
But a health attorney who helps people get care says discounts don’t get to the root of the problem.
"We think a better approach is proactive consumer engagement that identifies why people are uninsured or underinsured," said Bobby Peterson, executive director of ABC for Health. "We know that health coverage program complexity leads far too many people to incorrectly believe that they are not eligible for certain services or programs." Programs like Medicaid, Medicare and subsidies through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
In addition to the high costs of prescription drugs, another emerging problem is the quality of some insurance products like short term limited duration plans. Baldwin has called them "junk plans" that may cost less but don’t provide adequate coverage.
Both Baldwin and Peterson said there needs to be strong consumer protections to hold insurance and pharmaceutical companies accountable.
"There’s been a lack of transparency and we’ve seen price hike after price hike with no accountability and no justification as far as we can see with the little transparency there is," Baldwin said. "This is a fight we must take on."
A 2008 study published by the National Institutes of Health predicted annual savings of $21.9 billion if the government could negotiate drug prices under Medicare.
But supporters of the current approach believe the secretary of Health and Human Services wouldn’t be able to strike a better deal.
They say competition to attract more Medicare beneficiaries leads to competitive pricing by insurers who negotiate with prescription manufacturers to reduce costs. The Galen Institute, a pro-free market health reform group, says "a judicious use of regulation, genuine market competition, transparency and consumer choice" have made Medicare Part D a success but changes are still needed.
Wisconsin also has a state prescription drug assistance program called SeniorCare.
Madison, Wis. (Jan. 9, 2019) – Patients who need help with the cost of prescription medications can now get a free prescription savings card through the state’s largest association of physicians.
The Wisconsin Medical Society is making available the Wisconsin Drug Card, a discount prescription medication card free to all Wisconsin residents. The discount card generates savings of up to 75 percent on prescription drugs at more than 68,000 pharmacies nationwide.
Wisconsin Drug Card helps uninsured and under-insured residents afford prescription medications. This resource has already saved Wisconsin residents more than $67 million since inception.
“Wisconsin Medical Society members are committed to providing the best possible care to their patients and making available the best programs that provide the biggest impact,” said Wisconsin Medical Society CEO Bud Chumbley, MD, MBA. “Wisconsin Drug Card is a prescription savings program that can help make prescriptions more affordable for those in need.”
Wisconsin Drug Card discounts are available to patients whose health insurance coverage does not include prescription benefits. Those who do have prescription coverage with their health insurance can use this program to get discounts on medications that are not covered by their insurance plan. All Wisconsin residents are eligible regardless of their current prescription coverage benefits.
With over 12,500 members dedicated to the best interests of their patients, the Wisconsin Medical Society is the largest association of medical doctors in the state and a trusted source for health policy leadership since 1841.
On March 4, the Wisconsin Drug Card Program began offering a free drug card that gives all state residents discounts on prescription medications.
Hidden in the wake of Brett Favre's retirement, many missed the card's announcement. The drug card allows Wisconsin residents to receive up to a 75 percent discount on prescriptions. Savings, however, average at 30 percent. Ben Porritt, media director for the program, said, "We are calling on hospitals, clinics, associations and organizations to create public awareness for the program and to help distribute cards. This program is just what the people of Wisconsin needed to help them manage rising insurance and medical expenses." Kyle Jumonville, development director for the Wisconsin Drug Card Program, said, "This card is available to everyone. Anyone can obtain a card and they don't have to fill out an application." Originally, the card was issued to help those who were uninsured or under insured, but there are no restrictions. The card can also be used to assist those who have insurance without prescription benefits or have full health care coverage. Those who don't qualify for Medicare and Medicaid are also eligible for the card. To obtain a card, residents have two options. One way to get the drug card is by going to the program's Web site, wisconsindrugcard.com, and filling in the name and phone number box. After inserting this information and pressing submit, the printable and authorized card will appear, ready for use. Those without computer access can go into any Aurora pharmacy and a card can be issued there as well. Scott Pigeon, pharmacy manager for Aurora pharmacy on Main Street, said, "The card is pretty easy to use. Even if you register online and forget to bring it in we can still look your information up to give you the discount." A prescription listing can also be found on the Web site by clicking on the medication pricing button.
This will lead prospective card holders to an A-Z list of prescriptions covered under the drug card. Those who don't know what drug to look for can also look up specific medical conditions. The condition listings can range from dandruff to malignant gastric tumors. After selecting an ailment, a catalog of brand and generic medications will appear. There are several pharmacies partnering with the program. More than 50,000 national and regional pharmacies are involved, including Walgreens, Kmart and Aurora, which is the preferred pharmacy for the program. Jim Moore, Aurora Pharmacy president, said, "We're continually looking for ways to help patients address the costs of prescription drugs. This initiative is one way to help ensure people are able to get the medications that improve their lives." The Wisconsin Drug Card Program is run by United Networks of America Rx Cards. UNA has helped set up programs in 17 other states. Brian Oliver, executive vice president of UNA, said, "The free prescription programs have created almost $100 million in prescription savings to members around the country in the short history of the program with calendar year savings for 2008 projected to exceed $108 million." Jumonville said, "It's really a great program. Finally, we can offer medical assistance to people regardless of age or health conditions. It's great for older college students who don't have or are no longer covered by their parent's health insurance."
A Children's Miracle Network Hospitals ad was featured in Pharmacy Times (May 2016 Issue). A donation will be made to your local Children's Miracle Network Hospital each time a prescription is processed through the Rx Assistance Program.
On March 4, state health care officials were excited to debut the Wisconsin Drug Card Program. The program offers an average of 30 percents savings for prescription drugs—and members can save up to 75 percent, reported the LaCross Tribune.
But the Rx drug program didn't get much press... that's because Packers quarterback Brett Favre announced he was retiring the same day.
Ben Porritt, the media director of the Drug Card Program, admitted it wasn't "the best timing ".
The program was designed to help out residents without health insurance who might have trouble paying for needed medications.
It can also help those who have insurance but no prescription drug coverage, and seniors enrolled in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program when they reach the coverage gap.
"[The drug card is] good for people who have seasonal jobs and college kids without insurance, or people in a transitional period before insurance coverage begins," said Porritt.
Discounts are available with any participating retailer or pharmacy. In Wisconsin, residents can go to Aurora Pharmacy, Kmart, Walgreens, and thousands of other pharmacies, wrote the Tribune.
So who can enroll in the drug discount program? Anyone.
There are no eligibility requirements – no income restrictions or age limits, and there's no application to enroll.
All Wisconsin residents have to do is go to this website and print out a free drug card – or go talk to a Kmart or Walgreens pharmacist.