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New Golden Buckeye Cards Will Offer Older Adults Discounts on Prescription Drugs; Cards to begin mailing this week.

CLEVELAND, Sept. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Governor Bob Taft and MemberHealth, Inc. today announced that distribution of new Golden Buckeye cards offering discounts on prescription drugs will begin today and continue for the next six to eight weeks. The Golden Buckeye Prescription Drug Program will offer savings on prescription drugs to Ohio residents age 60 and better and to adults with permanent and total disabilities. Cards will be mailed automatically to eligible Ohioans with a driver's license, a state ID card or who are registered voters.

This program, enacted through legislation, is the first in any state to offer access to every adult over the age of 60 without enrollment fees. MemberHealth, a privately owned Ohio pharmacy benefit manager, was selected through a competitive process to administer the program.

The primary users of the program are expected to be the estimated one- third of Ohio seniors who do not have any form of financial assistance with their drug purchases.

Cardholders can receive a combination of savings on several different levels:
 -- All Golden Buckeye cardholders will receive a basic discount on
 prescriptions equal to the lower of the negotiated discount with
 pharmacies or the pharmacy's normal cash price to members. Overall,
 these savings average about 19 percent.

 -- All cardholders may obtain additional savings from automatic rebates
 on preferred brand drugs offered by participating manufacturers.

 -- Even greater savings may be obtained from participating manufacturers'
 special assistance programs for eligible members who qualify. (These
 programs are based on income levels. ODA estimates that about 20
 percent of Ohio seniors will qualify for special assistance programs.)
 Savings here are equal to or greater than those under legislative
 initiatives. To qualify, cardholders must complete and return a simple
 form that will be mailed with the new Golden Buckeye card.

 -- Additionally, all cardholders can benefit from additional savings on
 all generic drugs. Savings may average 30-60 percent compared to the
 regular cash price.

 -- All cardholders have the option of additional savings on home delivery
 for maintenance drugs.

In addition, each time a patient uses the Golden Buckeye card to fill a prescription, MemberHealth will perform a drug review to alert the pharmacist and physician to possible problems such as drug interactions, allergies and duplicate therapies. "This review adds an important layer of protection for seniors, especially those who see multiple physicians or have their prescriptions filled at different pharmacies," said Charles E. Hallberg, president and a director of MemberHealth. "We believe this adds a very significant benefit to the program.

"In fact, this program is significantly enhanced over the initial design," Hallberg said. "While there have been other proposals in other states, everything else seems to be years away from being implemented. We have a program up and running today that offers the same or better savings than the other proposals. The difference is, we're actually implementing it. And we can continue to grow the program in the years to come. As a great first step in lowering drug costs for seniors, we believe the program is a model of collaboration between the state and private industry."

The most significant change since the program was first introduced is the addition of four manufacturers' special assistance programs for Golden Buckeye cardholders. To develop this added benefit, MemberHealth has negotiated directly with manufacturers to offer special assistance programs to qualifying cardholders. The Golden Buckeye Prescription Drug program will operate as a single enrollment point for programs sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Novartis.

These programs offer more significant savings to consumers who meet specific eligibility requirements. Without the Golden Buckeye program, each patient would have to identify multiple programs that would benefit him/her, complete enrollment forms, submit supporting documentation and wait for approval from each drug manufacturer.

With the new Golden Buckeye program, cardholders need only complete and return a simple form that they will receive with their new card. Eligibility then will be determined for appropriate programs and enrollment will occur through MemberHealth's computer network. Eligible cardholders will automatically receive savings at the time of purchase.

Negotiations are ongoing to increase manufacturer participation in this program. To date, 19 manufacturers are participating in the Golden Buckeye program. MemberHealth uses state-of-the-art technology that allows it to work with the unique needs of every manufacturer. The system has been designed to automatically pass on new benefits to participants as more manufacturers agree to join the plan.

More information about the program is available on the Golden Buckeye Web site, .

MemberHealth, Inc. (MHI) is a privately owned Ohio corporation that operates a prescription benefit management organization administering insured, self-insured and discount prescription programs. For more information on consumer programs, visit .

CONTACT: Charles E. Hallberg of MemberHealth, +1-440-248-8448; or Steve Proctor of the Ohio Department of Aging, +1-614-728-8643; or Barbara Paynter of Edward Howard & Co., +1-216-781-2400, or cell, +1-330-329-8298

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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 22, 2003
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