The Oakland County Board of Commissioners’ Republican and Democratic caucuses are investigating whether to ditch CVS Caremark, the current vendor for the county’s prescription drug discount card program, in favor of one that could double the amount of savings program participants enjoy, as well as double the amount of people participating in the program.
County Commissioner Jim Runestad (R-Waterford, White Lake) brought forward the idea to the GOP caucus last month and the board’s Republicans heard the arguments for switching from CVS Caremark to the Coast2Coast Rx Card, a move that Runestad estimated could bring between $150,000 and $200,000 to the county for health programs through a per-prescription royalty that the county would receive.
“Coast2Coast is a company that is capturing one county after another all throughout the nation because their (discount) is in the range of about 42 percent, and it’s about a 20-25 percent penetration rate into the various counties around the nation,” Runestad said, adding that the amount of people the discount cards could service could possibly double under Coast2Coast’s program.
“In other words, with (Caremark), they give us 100,000 cards, but only 20 percent of the population that can use them is using them,” Runestad said. “(Coast2Coast’s usage rate is at 40 percent of the population that can use these.”
“We are reviewing it,” said County Commissioner Philip Weipert (R-Walled Lake, Wixom). “It seems to offer more — a bigger discount, also discounts on lab testing and imaging tests. We are getting more information and considering it.”
County Commissioner John Scott (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield) said the Coast2Coast program “sounds good to me,” in part because Coast2Coast would place the prescription drug discount cards at key locations, such as pharmacies, throughout the county. Various county offices, as well as local city, township and village offices, libraries, and senior and community centers typically have the prescription drug discount cards available.
Weipert said the GOP Caucus has asked for a list of counties that have signed on to Coast2Coast so far and is investigating how easy of a transition it could be from Caremark to Coast2Coast in an effort to minimize or eliminate any blips in service, should the county opt to switch vendors.
“It seems like a very good program and if it turns out to be as good as represented, it may be something that works itself out for us,” Weipert said.
“Instead of retaining the increase for our company, we passed the entire increase to counties to help counties have more money available to help subsidize one or more health programs that the counties might be cutting or reducing due to budgetary cuts. The royalty does not increase cardholder cost of prescriptions,” states an e-mail about Coast2Coast that Runestad provided to the Spinal Column Newsweekly.
But Runestad said there was concern about whether the royalty would be at odds with a “federal anti-kickback law.”
“Is it part of the federal anti-kickback legislation? Is it considered a kickback? Over 80 counties are receiving the royalty and I’m sure every one of them had their legal counsel look at it,” he said.
County Commissioner Marcia Gershenson (D-West Bloomfield) said Coast2Coast is “making some pretty impressive promises” and that the board’s Democrats are “in the process of checking those out.”
“If it’s true, and we really could be offering people a bigger discount and more benefit to the county, what I would like to see is an RFP (request for proposals) to give local companies a chance to match” what Coast2Coast is offering.
Oakland County began offering free prescription drug discount cards available to the uninsured and underinsured citizens five years ago. Participants, according to the county, realize average savings on prescription drugs of 20 percent, plus savings on specialty medications.