While the federal government works out the kinks in the Affordable Care Act website, Shelby County residents have another way to save money on medical expenses.
The Shelby County prescription discount card may be a benefit to residents who are worried if their current insurance plans will be honored under the Affordable Care Act or if they'll have to sign up for a different plan. The discount card will also benefit those who are uninsured.
On average, the discount card saves customers 24 percent off the retail price of their prescribed medications and can be utilized by anyone in Shelby County for free.
"This is a way to help people at a real pivotal time in their lives with issues regarding the Affordable Care Act," said Steve Shular, a spokesperson for Shelby County mayor Mark Luttrell. "With insurance issues that are yet to be settled, any tool that would give them a discount on prescriptions would certainly be a welcome relief."
The National Association of Counties (NACo) launched the card in 2005 as an alternative for those who are underinsured or uninsured. Shelby County partnered with NACo this fall, making it one of more than 1,300 county governments across the nation offering the prescription discount card to residents.
To obtain a card, residents can visit nacorx.org and print one off. The cards can also be downloaded on a smartphone or picked up from a participating pharmacy.
Since the card was introduced, it has saved $550 million on more than 43 million prescriptions across the country. It's accepted at 65,000 different pharmacies, including Walmart, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS.
"More than nine out of 10 pharmacies are part of the network, so you're harder pressed to find a pharmacy that's not [participating] versus one that is," said Andrew Goldschmidt, director of membership marketing for NACo.
Insured residents won't be able to apply the card to products that are already discounted through their medical insurance plan, but they can use it for prescriptions not covered under their plan.
"I have one prescription that is not covered by my formulary through NACo, and I actually use the card to reduce a 90-day supply of that prescription from $33 to $14," Goldschmidt said.
Whenever a transaction is completed with the discount card, the county is reimbursed $1 by CVS Caremark, the pharmacy benefit management company behind the project. Shular said the reimbursed money would be used to fund programs like the Healthy Shelby initiative, a consortium of business and community agencies pushing to improve the health of citizens.
The discount card can also be used to purchase pet medications that fall under the plan. This may be highly beneficial, considering that only about 6 percent of dog owners and around 3 percent of cat owners have health insurance for their pets, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
"County residents just need to ask their veterinarians to write out the prescription, and then they can take it to one of our participating pharmacies," Goldschmidt said. "Your pets are part of the family too, and you want to keep it that way."