ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The National Association of Chain Drug Stores here last week unveiled its own discount drug card for low-income seniors, which it said could unite the individual drug cards that manufacturers have been proposing.
The PharmacyCareOneCard, which will be administered by Argus Health Systems, Kansas City, Mo., will become available to consumers at no charge in late April, according to Crystal Wright, vice president, media relations, NACDS.
"We see this as a solution in the absence of a Medicare prescription-drug benefit at the moment," she said, adding that the association would continue to work toward the creation of a Medicare drug benefit through Congress.
She said NACDS has spoken with about 60 different drugmakers about the possibility of offering discounts to impoverished seniors through the card, but as of last week none had agreed to participate. She said, however, that the association has received some positive feedback from the drug companies, at least four of which have unveiled their own discount card programs.
"They are willing to participate if they can find a logical approach that meets everybody's needs, and they're looking forward to it," she said. "They are in discussions with Argus now trying to work out the details."
NACDS also would consider allowing retailers to link their benefit cards to the OneCard, if they were to develop such cards. The program would not be open to pharmacy benefit management companies, however.
"We've said all along that it should be freedom of choice for the consumer," she said. "There shouldn't be someone in the middle trying to steer customers toward one drug or another."
Some retailers, including Wal-Mart, CVS and Rite Aid, already agreed to accept the PharmacyCareOneCard in their stores.
"Wal-Mart enthusiastically supports OneCard as a vehicle for lowering prescription-drug costs for America's senior citizens," said Rob Phillips, Wal-Mart spokesman.
He described the card as an "excellent response" to the proposal for drug cards that President Bush introduced last year. Retailers remain opposed to the administration's proposal, which recently was modified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Michael Polzin, spokesman, Walgreen Co., Deerfield, Ill., said the drug chain supports NACDS' efforts but has not yet decided to accept the card. He confirmed that the company was considering developing its own card.
Craig Fuller, president and chief executive, NACDS, received encouraging feedback from the administration about the OneCard, according to Wright.
NACDS and Argus will attempt to promote the card through radio and print public-service announcements and through doctor's offices, community centers and churches, she said.
The cards would be open to seniors with an annual income of no more than $18,000 for individuals or $24,000 for couples.