Former Rep. Kennedy to Launch Rx Drug Discount Program
Former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) will launch a private prescription drug discount program today for Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut residents, the Boston Globe reports. According to Kennedy, the not-for-profit Citizens Health Corp. -- a subsidiary of his Citizens Energy Corp. -- has negotiated discounts with more than 900 drug stores and could provide savings of up to 42% (Klein, Boston Globe, 9/25). In addition, GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol Myers-Squibb have agreed to give participants in Citizens Health 10% to 20% discounts on brand-name drugs, including the cholesterol drug Pravachol, the diabetes treatment Glucophage, asthma drug Flonase and the antidepressant Paxil. According to the Washington Post, a recent study found that Citizens Health Corp. members could see 24% to 36% discounts on these medications, and more substantial reductions for generic drugs (Connolly, Washington Post, 9/25). Program participation will cost $12 per year for individuals and $28 for families. The plan, similar to a discount-club membership, is "open to all," but Kennedy said that the plan is "most likely to attract" seniors and the poor who lack prescription drug coverage.
The launch of Citizens Health Corp. comes after "several years of failed attempts" by Massachusetts lawmakers to enact a state-sponsored bulk purchasing drug plan, the Globe reports. Some officials have expressed concern that such a plan might detract from Prescription Advantage, the state's drug program for seniors and people with disabilities that covers drug costs after certain premiums and deductibles are met. But Kennedy said he believes it was necessary to take action without the state's help because it was clear that lawmakers did not "want to move forward." He added that Citizens Health Corp. could supplement Prescription Advantage by allowing enrollees in the latter to "take advantage of the lower prices he's negotiated" (Boston Globe, 9/25). Kennedy will hold a "campaign-style announcement tour" today in Providence, Hartford and Boston, and television ads will be used to promote Citizens Health Corp. (Washington Post, 9/25). But some health experts wonder if Kennedy has been overly optimistic in projecting the size of discounts that participants will receive. Alan Sager of the Boston University School of Public Health said, "This sounds like a well-intentioned effort that could help some people, and on balance, it's probably worth doing. Unfortunately, it can tackle only a very small share of the problem of unaffordable medications" (Boston Globe, 9/25).