Discount Drug Card vs Part D

I’ve recently received several calls from clients who asked me about a discount drug card they got, unsolicited, through the mail. I don’t know if this is the same card being promoted through the Pima County Health Department.  That would be the  Coast2Coast Rx card which provides discounts on generic and brand drugs of “up to 75%”, according to press releases.

My clients have a Part D plan through their Medicare Advantage plan, or they have a stand-alone Part D plan because they have a Medicare supplement. They were wondering if they should use the discount card instead of their Part D plan, or if they could use it with their Part D plan.

Discount drug cards are for people who do not have health insurance that includes drug coverage – or people who have lousy health insurance that includes lousy drug coverage. There are lots of people in this category.

The prescription discount card is free. Here’s what the press release says about the card:

Coast2Coast Rx is a no-cost, comprehensive program for savings on thousands of prescriptions and additional health services. The Pima County Board of Supervisors recently approved the card for its health and financial benefits to their constituents:  it saves consumers money and provides them the opportunity to improve their health outcomes. And in the current economic climate, the free program serves as an important public service to residents and to participating counties—as it requires no administrative work by public personnel, it is a fiscally responsible way for the county to offer a resource to its constituents without overhead costs.

Should a person with a Part D plan use this discount drug card?

The answer is, “it depends”.  The discount card and a Part D plan cannot be used together. You can use one or the other, but not both. So if a person has an expensive drug, they will need to ask the pharmacy a few questions such as:

1) What is the cost to me if I use the Coast2Coast Rx card?   2) What is my co-pay if I use my Part D plan?

Choose to use the lower cost option.

An example: Zostavax, the Shingles vaccine

An example of an fairly expensive drug is the vaccine for Shingles. People over 65 are encouraged to get this vaccine because Shingles is a very painful illness.  I called Walgreens to ask what the cost would be for Zostavax.  Without insurance, a person would pay $219.99 for the Zostavax shot.  I do not know what the discount would be for this drug using the Coast2Coast discount card.

For folks who have a Part D plan, the cost for Zostavax will depend on the co-pay that comes with their plan. Most Part D plans call Zostavax a “non-preferred brand” drug.  Co-pays for this drug tier vary from $75 to $95, depending on the Part D Plan or Medicare Advantage plan a person is enrolled in.

If a person has a $90 co-pay for Zostavax on their Part D plan, that’s a 60% discount on the Walgreen price of $219.99. I’m guessing the Coast2Coast Rx card does not provide that much of a discount, so using a Part D plan would likely be the lowest-cost option.  But it’s always a good idea to check out all your options for saving money.




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3 Responses to "Discount Drug Card vs Part D"

  1. Del Rickel says:

    Why do a comparison article without a comparison?

  2. Denise_Early says:

    I’m just telling people with Part D that they need to ask some questions to get themselves the best deal.

  3. Denise_Early says:

    I tried to get some discounted prices using the Coast2CoastRx card. I called a CVS pharmacy and asked if they could tell me what the discounted price would be with the Coast2Coast Rx card.

    The CVS pharmacist told me I need a prescription. Then she will create a record for me which will contain the information from the Coast2Coast Rx card. Only then will the system generate a discounted price for a particular medication.

    I told her I don’t have a prescription and want to know what the cost for Advair would be with the card. But, I said, “I don’t have insurance and I don’t want to pay for a doctor’s visit for a medication I may not be able to afford, so I need to know what Advair will cost me before I spend money on a doctor visit”.

    She said her system is not set up to work any other way.

    So…. what is an uninsured person supposed to do? I’ll try other pharmacies and see if I can get some pricing information. I am fortunate to actually have very good health insurance, but the Coast2Coast Rx discount card is for people who do not have health insurance.

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