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Kandiyohi County considers participating in discount drug card program for uninsured and underinsured residents

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners is considering participating in a national prescription drug card program that would benefit uninsured or underinsured residents in the county.

The National Organization of Counties offers the discount card to member counties.

Under the program, every resident, without regard to income or medical eligibility, could receive the card at no cost and without filling out enrollment forms.

Card holders would be guaranteed to receive prescription medications at a discount price at participating pharmacies. Those discounts average 22 percent over the full retail cost, according to the National Organization of Counties Web site.

The program would not cost the county or taxpayers anything.

When he first heard about the program, Commissioner Harlan Madsen said he thought it was "too good to be true."

After talking to counties in Minnesota and other states that use it, Madsen said he's become sold on the program and thinks it should be offered here.

"I, personally, would strongly support that we at least take it to another level," said Madsen. "From what I've heard, I would support it."

Family Services Director Jay Kieft said that while most chain pharmacies participate in the program, he was concerned that some small, private pharmacies are not on the approved list.

Kieft said he was also concerned with the staff time it would take to advertise and administer the program.

Madsen said the National Organization of Counties provides the promotional materials and he believed the time commitment was minimal and the returns would be "significant" for people who may not be getting prescriptions because of cost. The card had been shown to increase the ability of the uninsured or underinsured to purchase their prescriptions.

Madsen said he was initially hesitant about the program and "had to be convinced it wasn't just a flash in the pan." So far, he said, he hasn't heard a downside.

He said there are "no strings" for the county to participate.

The commissioners agreed to have Kieft do additional research and present a report in October.

The commissioners heard information about the Willmar Community Senior Network, a living at home block nurse program that was started in October of 2008.

In the first nine months of the program, volunteers provided 455 hours of service to 77 senior citizens who needed assistance to help keep them independent and living at home.

Cuts to the block nurse program have made funding questionable for the coming year.

John Dean, a member of the board of directors, said they're waiting to hear about some grant applications and several local organizations are holding fundraisers to help meet the nearly $50,000 budget for another year.

Dean said they currently have enough money to keep the program going through March of 2010.

"If anybody hears of any extra money lying around, we'd appreciate it," Dean told the commissioners.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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