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Volume discounts

Montgomery County's discount card sponsored by the National Association of Counties and administered, by Caremark, a pharmaceutical services company.

Caremark is capable to pass along lower rates negotiated with pharmacies by increasing the number of prescriptions filled. That lets the company receive deeper discounts from drug manufacturers because more medication is sold.

The savings to customers, an average of 20 percent - applies to brand name and generic drugs. Customers get as much as a 50 percent discount on three-month supplies by mail order.

About 21 percent, or 90,000 residents in Montgomery County, do not have health insurance, as per 2005 data from the Texas Medical Association. McLeod said that about 30 percent of Harris County residents are with no coverage.

Local officials said, of those who do have coverage, many are underinsured or do not have prescription coverage.

The statistics compounded by the rising cost of medication. Johnson said, retail prescription prices have increased 7.5 percent a year between 1994 and 2006 - three times the average annual inflation rate for other goods.

As of January, the program had saved customers about $21 million on 2 million prescriptions for an average savings of $10.50 per prescription, said the National Association of Counties.

In Texas, 60 counties, including San Jacinto, Webb, Dallas, Bexar and Young participate. Nationwide, 750 counties make use of the program.

The counties pay a $4,000 annual membership fee to the association, which provides the counties access to all services provided by the association, together with the discount card program. Caremark handles all the rest, as well as producing the cards and advertising.

According to John Hennigan, hospital district board member, "The program operates without any taxes from the county, as an elected official you can't ask for anything more than that."



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