In the run-up to the launch of a new pharmacy discount cards program, some health insurers are trying to get the word out about the program, but many patients are still not sure if they can use the cards, said Stephanie Moller, a senior adviser with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
The industry group for insurers, the National Alliance of Health Plans, is also warning consumers about the card, which it said will not help patients enroll in health plans and can be a double-edged sword for patients.
Moller said that although there are benefits, consumers are not always confident about whether a pharmacy discount program will help them, and they should look for other options.
“When you are paying $100 for a card, you don’t really know what you are going to get,” Moller said.
“You might get a discount if you buy something that you really like or if you have an existing relationship with your pharmacy that you are using for discounting, but it’s not a guarantee.”
“They should talk to your doctor before they go into the program.”
If you do enroll in a pharmacy card, Moller says it’s important to talk to the doctor about how you feel about using the card.
“If you are thinking of taking advantage of the program and you don, you really need to talk with your doctor and find out if it is really worth it to you,” she said.
The new pharmacy cards program will start in 2020, but will be rolled out over the next several years.
It will offer a variety of discounts, including a $5 savings card, up to a $10 discount card, and the option of an annual fee-free membership, up from $15 annually now.
The American Cancer Society says it is working with the pharmaceutical industry and health insurers to expand the program to other states.
“The industry needs to be able to communicate with people that this is going to be a lifesaving product that will help people in need,” said Susan Karp, vice president for public policy and advocacy at the American Cancer Societies Cancer Action Fund.
“I think that we need to be talking to our patients about what they can expect and where they can get help.
Some patients are already looking to use a pharmacy program, she said, “but they don’t know what it is and they don-t want to know what they are going into.”
Moll said some pharmacies will offer discounted prices on prescription drugs for certain drugs.
Another option that some health plans are offering is a health savings account, which provides money for insurance or other costs that people cannot pay.
In a letter to pharmacy cardholders, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned that using the program “could cause an increased number of uninsured patients and increase the risk of costly medical care and death.”
The American Medical Association has also been urging health plans to start offering health cards.
Medical News Today reached out to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the industry group that represents drugmakers, but did not receive a response.
PhRSA spokeswoman Michelle DeCarlo said the group is encouraging its members to enroll, “including by providing a card to your primary care physician and participating in our Card Access Network.” “
We know the benefits of the pharmacy card program, and we have a lot of faith that this program will make a big difference in the lives of millions of people,” said Anne Bressman, a spokeswoman for Cigna.
PhRSA spokeswoman Michelle DeCarlo said the group is encouraging its members to enroll, “including by providing a card to your primary care physician and participating in our Card Access Network.”
While some insurers are promising to extend pharmacy discounts to other groups, some have not.
For example, Anthem and Wellpoint recently extended pharmacy discounts for a year to anyone with a Medicare prescription drug plan, and Anthem will offer an additional discount of up to $5 off prescriptions for people enrolled in the plan.
Anthem also said it would expand its pharmacy discount programs to include some other health plans, including Medicaid.
However, not everyone agrees that the health savings accounts and pharmacy cards programs are the best way to get discounts.
Health insurance premiums are expected to rise, and consumers have a right to know if a program will actually help them pay for health care.
“When people think about their insurance, they think about deductibles and co-pays and other things that are out there,” Moll said.
“I think there is a very strong feeling that we are not seeing a big impact from the pharmacy cards or the health cards programs.”