ELIZABETHTOWN - A discount prescription drug plan sponsored by Essex County is gaining in popularity.
ProAct, a Gouverneur-based subsidiary of Kinney Drugs, offers discount prescription drugs for uninsured clients. The county signed a one-year contract with the company last year, according to county Manager Dan Palmer.
Essex County Personnel Officer Monica Feeley said last week that she checked with a local pharmacy to see if many people were using ProAct.
"Their response to me was, 'Yes, definitely," she said. "They have even had to contact ProAct directly and ask for additional cards because people are actually utilizing the prescription drugs. I was quite impressed with the numbers."
Palmer said 354 people in Essex County took advantage of the program in December 2011. He added that Essex County's sponsorship of the program doesn't cost taxpayers anything.
"These are not insured individuals; these are uninsured individuals who are making use of this card and are obtaining a pretty significant discount," he said. "There are more uninsured out there than I think we realized, and they are taking advantage of this program, and it has had a significant impact."
ProAct President David Warner said the number of people using the program is growing statewide.
"Based on the economy, more unemployed people or those that have jobs that don't offer benefits, they need some savings, so they turn to things like this," he said.
Local pharmacies object
Board Chairman Randy Douglas, D-Jay, said some independent pharmacies didn't want the county to participate in the program because of ProAct's relationship with Kinney Drugs. ProAct uses information from its users to send mailings about programs offered by Kinney Drugs.
Moriah town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said that Jim Bowen, who owns pharmacies in Port Henry, Schroon Lake and Willsboro, was concerned about Essex County's sponsorship of ProAct because it "had an impact" on local pharmacies. He said some of those independent businesses offer a similar program.
Palmer said most drug stores will provide discounts for uninsured customers, but it's "just not as formal and not as laid out as it is under the ProAct plan."
Douglas said the county sponsored ProAct simply to help its residents.
"We certainly were not trying to have a negative impact on any of the local pharmacies," he said. "Obviously, we have helped a lot of uninsured people in Essex County, and that is what we were trying to do to begin with."
Chesterfield town Supervisor Gerald Morrow said that independent pharmacies in Keeseville, AuSable Forks and Peru, which is in Clinton County, offer ProAct as well, not just Kinney Drugs.
No abuse concerns
According to Warner, ProAct is not like an employer plan or a program like Medicaid because the patient is still paying the bulk of the cost for prescriptions.
"Typical abuses of the system come when someone else is paying the bill, and they're getting away with it," Warner said. "We would notify the pharmacy if there was an unusually high dosage. The pharmacies would catch it also."
Warner said his company doesn't capture patient data through the discount program.
"They're just getting a discount off of it," Warner said.