Erie County program offers low-fee senior drug plan

SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) - Erie County has begun an innovative program that provides prescription drugs to seniors for a nominal fee.
Serving Our Seniors, a nonprofit group in Sandusky that contracts with the county, uses money from a senior-services tax issue and donations to buy prescription drugs for seniors.
Officials point out that the Affordable Medication Program is not a discount card plan or health insurance.
It provides dozens of drugs to 70 seniors for a nominal monthly fee. Most pay $10 or less for drugs that otherwise would cost as much as $400 a month.
The fee is negotiated based on each person's monthly income and expenses, said Tina Elmlinger, the program's medications coordinator.
"It's what they feel they can pay at the end of the month," she said.
Participants must live in Erie County, be 60 or older and have any of six common chronic but treatable diseases: diabetes, arthritis, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, cataracts or glaucoma.
Participants also must provide financial information that shows they cannot afford to buy medicine along with food and other necessities. There are 112 people on the program's waiting list.
Officials at Ohio AARP and the Ohio Department of Aging knew of no similar program in Ohio.
"It's unusual, particularly since it's locally funded," said Patrick Libbey, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials in Washington, D.C.
Sue Daugherty, Serving Our Seniors' executive director, said the program can't help every senior who needs it.
"What keeps others from doing this is that the problem is mammoth. It's intimidating, so you don't try," she said. "This is our way of chipping away at the problem."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)