Northfield Township officials recently rolled out a new, free prescription discount card program for residents without insurance or whose insurance doesn’t cover their medications.
Called Coast2CoastRx, the discount prescription card is available to any township resident regardless of age, income or existing health insurance.
“It’s pretty risk-free from a resident’s perspective,” said Township Supervisor Jill Brickman.
The card is administered at the township or county level through Financial Marketing Concepts in Florida and Welldyne in Colorado. In Illinois, the program has been implemented in and Warren townships. Counties in Florida, Texas, California and New Jersey are among the other users.
Participating in the program does not cost a township anything, according to Deborah Karton, who is a benefits coordinator for the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association, a nonprofit that distributes the card in Illinois.
After 1,700 prescriptions are filled, she added, the township gets 50 cents for each prescription that is classified as "non-usual and customary. "
Although the amount of money actually going back to the township is small, it is still a boon to residents, township officials said.
“We’re always looking for creative ways to generate money other than tax dollars,” said trustee Carol Blustein.
Money collected will go to support the township’s general assistance funds, which benefit residents in need through local social service agencies, according to Community Coordinator Gayle Zalatoris.
From the start of the through March, about 3,000 prescriptions have been filled with the card, Karton said. On average, users saved about 45 percent off the price of their prescriptions, she added.
In Northfield Township, every major pharmacy, such as Walgreens, CVS and Target, is participating, along with the few independent pharmacies, including Dundee Pharmacy in Northbrook and in Winnetka.
“There’s a benefit for bringing people in the door,” Karton said, explaining why pharmacies had an incentive to participate. “There’s a reason why pharmacies are in the back [of the store].”
Many major pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, offer their own prescription drug discount cards, which are often fee-based. In contrast, Karton said, the Coast2Coast Rx Card program does not charge users a fee and does not expire.
Dundee Pharmacy co-owner and pharmacist Neil Macklin said he didn’t expect the prescription drug card to significantly affect his profits.
“We’ve actually structured our pricing program so that our prices are along the lines that a discount pricing program would offer,” he said.
But, Macklin added, “It is possible to save a little bit of money and, of course, we’d have to give up whatever profit there is.”
While Macklin said he recognized that township officials were “trying to offer a benefit,” he emphasized that prescription pricing was more complicated than a simple transaction between buyer and seller.
“They don’t understand that nobody’s on the other side, paying,” he said.
Individuals can pick up the Coast2CoastRx cards at pharmacies throughout the township as well as at the village halls in Glenview and Northbrook. Cards can also be printed off the discount plan’s website.