Baltimore County will offer drug discount cards to residents this month, joining a nationwide program designed to help defray the cost of prescription drugs.
Residents in neighborhoods with incomes below the county's median average of about $50,000 will receive cards through a mass mailing to about 100,000 households, while all other residents can pick them up in libraries, senior centers and other public buildings, the officials said.
Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. is expected to announce the county's participation in the program, sponsored by the National Association of Counties, at a news conference this afternoon in Randallstown.
With the announcement, Baltimore County will become the second Maryland jurisdiction to take part in the NACo program, which provides cards through AdvancePCS, which is part of Nashville, Tenn.-based Caremark Rx. Montgomery County began offering the cards to residents last year.
At least two other jurisdictions have programs using a different company, ScriptSave. Anne Arundel has been offering ScriptSave discounts to low- and moderate-income residents for about five years, and Baltimore City announced in April a contract to provide cards for all city residents regardless of income.
The NACo program has proven to be a success in its first nine months, said Andrew Goldschmidt, the organization's membership marketing director. More than 52,000 prescriptions had been filled using the cards as of May 31, reducing the costs of drugs by more than 19 percent on average - a savings of about $730,000, he said.
The cards are most beneficial to the "working poor," residents who make too much to qualify for assistance but too little to afford insurance that includes prescription drug coverage, he said.
"This is really filling a niche," Goldschmidt said.
Forty counties nationwide have signed on. Others, including several in Maryland, have expressed interest, he said.
In Baltimore County, the rising cost of prescription drugs is a recurring theme among residents, said County Council Chairman Joseph Bartenfelder.
"We have an aging population in Baltimore County ... and rising drug costs are of great concern to all of them," he said.
More than 150 pharmacies in the county are participating in the program, according to county officials.
"For hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Baltimore County families, the ability to get more affordable prescription drug care is a great example of how government can work on behalf of families," said Donald Mohler, a spokesman for Smith.