Move over, Wal-Mart: new prescription plan at UCH cuts prices for generics

Discount card will provide assistance for the uninsured and underinsured
March 30, 2016

Move over, Wal-Mart. University of Colorado Hospital is set to unveil a discount prescription plan of its own.

The hospital, which has long seen its patients fill many of their prescriptions at the retail chain giant for $4, will make more than 200 commonly prescribed generic drugs available for $5 for a 30-day supply. A 90-day supply of generics on the list will cost just $13. The “Prescription Club” is slated to launch April 5.

The list includes drugs that cover more than a dozen conditions, including hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. There are multiple medications and dosages in nearly all the categories.

Patients will pay $1 more for some prescriptions than they would at Wal-Mart, but they’ll be able to pick them up directly from a UCH pharmacy instead of making a trip to the retail outlet, said Anne Wells, PharmD, Ambulatory Care operations manager for the Pharmacy Department .

“We’re going to provide our patients with an option that they haven’t had in the past with low-priced medications under our own roof,” Wells said.

It’s also a plus for the hospital’s providers who are concerned that patients get the medications they need to manage their health, said Erik Johnson, PharmD, Ambulatory Care supervising pharmacist.

“Our providers have asked us why we can’t keep more prescriptions for their patients in-house,” Johnson said. “This will help keep some of the prescriptions from walking out the door.”

The Prescription Club will help patients who are uninsured or underinsured – such as those with large prescription co-pays – to get their medications, but it’s open to all hospital patients and employees. However, Wells stressed that the prescription club is not an insurance plan. Rather, it is a cash discount plan that cannot be used to satisfy a deductible or reduce the co-pay on another prescription.

The club will provide discounts for generic and brand name medications that are not on the list, Wells added. These discounted prescriptions will cost less than the regular cash pricing available at UCH pharmacies and will provide additional help to individuals, she said.

Join the club

The program works straightforwardly. Individuals will pay a $10 enrollment fee that defrays the cost of developing and sustaining the program. The enrollment fee is automatically added to the first prescription billed to the program. To offset the fee, enrollees will receive two $5 coupons they can use to pay for their prescriptions.  The coupons can be used immediately or saved to be used another day.

Enrollees will get a welcome packet and a card with a unique ten-digit ID, such as a phone number, that will be assigned at enrollment. There is no paperwork to fill out, and the program is already built and tested in Epic so individuals can access the program the first time they visit the pharmacy.

The hospital’s wholesaler, Cardinal Health, sponsors the program and will work with drug manufacturers to decide which generic medications will be on the program list, Wells said. The cash discounts for generic and branded medications not on the list will be based on the industry and accepted costs, Wells said.

With the program launch upcoming, Wells and Johnson and their team are concentrating on getting the word out to providers that their patients will have a new low-cost option for many medications. Johnson said techs assigned to the Atrium Pharmacy discharge desk already work with patients to understand what they can afford to pay for their prescriptions and find ways to lower the cost, if necessary. The Prescription Club gives techs and providers a new and reliable option for patients who need help paying for their medications.

“We think [providing affordable options] will be easier with this program, and it will mean less time our nurses and discharge team have to spend on that,” Johnson said.

About the author

Tyler Smith has been a health care writer, with a focus on hospitals, since 1996. He served as a writer and editor for the Marketing and Communications team at University of Colorado Hospital and UCHealth from 2007 to 2017. More recently, he has reported for and contributed stories to the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Colorado School of Public Health and the Colorado Bioscience Association.