State Picks Prescription Discount Plan Manager

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - More than 2.2 million seniors and disabled Ohioans could soon be able to use Golden Buckeye Cards for discounts on prescription drugs.

The state has selected a suburban Cleveland company, MemberHealth Inc., to arrange discounts and negotiate rebates with pharmaceutical manufacturers, Gov. Bob Taft announced Wednesday at the Governor's Conference on Aging. The deal must be reviewed by the state's Controlling Board, a legislative panel that must approve much of the state's spending.

Under the plan, seniors and disabled Ohioans would be able to use their Golden Buckeye Card for prescription-drug discounts at participating pharmacies. The card provides the elderly and disabled with discounts at more than 23,000 participating businesses.

"We are targeting seniors because that's where we think the biggest problems are," Taft said Tuesday.

MemberHealth, of Solon, is a prescription benefit management organization.

Taft hopes to have the program operating in January. The plan offering discounts through the Golden Buckeye Card was part of the budget-balancing bill passed in June.

Taft is seeking re-election against Cleveland Democrat Timothy F. Hagan, who is proposing a broader prescription-discount program proposed by Democrats and his brother, Sen. Robert F. Hagan, D-Youngstown.

"It's an embarrassment to see busloads of Ohioans going to Canada to get their drugs at 50 percent less," Tim Hagan said.

Steve Proctor, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Aging, said he did not know how much MemberHealth would be paid to administer the program.

Recipients of Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor, blind and disabled, already have prescription-drug coverage.

Proctor said 90 percent of the pharmacies in the state have agreed to participate in the plan, and seniors also can order their prescriptions by mail. He said savings on drug costs are expected to range from 13 percent to 20 percent in pharmacies and greater with mail orders.

The prescription drug plan using Golden Buckeye Card was introduced by Rep. John Hagan, R-Marlboro Township.

"Were getting the best deal available," John Hagan said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)