Carroll's commissioners will enroll the county in a nationwide prescription-discount card program that could help thousands of uninsured and underinsured residents pay for medications.
The county has more than 14,000 uninsured residents who can participate in the program by using the card from Caremark, a Nashville-based enterprise that is one of the largest pharmaceutical services companies in the United States.
"Everyone knows how the cost of drugs is increasing," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "This is a program that can reach everyone, regardless of age or income status."
Participants can save an average of 20 percent on the cost of medications and as much as 50 percent on prescriptions by mail, county officials said. There is no cost to the county or to cardholders for the service, and no income criteria or application for participants to fill out.
Caremark will take about two months to process the county's application for the program, which the commissioners signed Thursday. Once the processing is completed, the company will print prescription cards with Carroll's logo, Gouge said.
"This is really something young families and seniors can use to stretch their pharmacy dollars," she said.
About 60,000 pharmacies across the nation and nearly all of those in the county have enrolled in the program, county officials said. Caremark works with the major pharmaceuticals to keep production costs down and can pass on the savings, officials said.
"Big chains, independent pharmacies, even the little mom-and-pop drugstores are involved," said Jolene Sullivan, county director of citizen services. "One card per family will cover everyone, whether or not they are insured or underinsured. This does not take the place of Medicare, but acts as added assistance.
"We may be able to assist more people than we ever thought possible," she said. "We want to do anything we can to reduce the cost of medicines, especially for low-income people. This is a first step."
Sponsored by the National Association of Counties and Caremark Inc., the program began nearly two years ago when several jurisdictions nationwide joined a pilot study.
"As counties progressed through the program, they reported how well it was working," said Gouge, who recently attended the association's convention in Hawaii. "Everyone reported that this is a real bonus."
Sullivan's staff will prepare a list of participating pharmacies in the county and will "get the word out" about the benefits, she said. Cards will be available at senior centers, libraries and doctors' offices.
"You can literally take the card and it will help you anywhere," she said.