Rx for savings: Connecticut discount drug cards launch on Oct. 2

Connecticut’s new prescription discount card will launch in just over two weeks, state leaders announced Thursday. Patients could save up to 80% off some drugs.
“IT’S NOT COVERED”
At Unity Pharmacy in Bridgeport, patients are like family. And as the price of pills keeps rising, family is struggling to keep up.
“They have issues paying for it, or, say, it's not covered,” said pharmacist Valerie Hardenbergh. “So, a lot of times, we would have to call the doctor's office to try and get it covered or changed.”
But help is on the way.
Starting Oct. 2, anyone in Connecticut can begin using an ArrayRx discount card. In other states, it’s saved patients an average of 20% off name-brand drugs and 80% off generics.
Gov. Ned Lamont’s office offered several examples:
That’s welcome news for patients like Veda White, of Windsor, whose medication costs more than ever.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “When I started taking it five years ago, it was $495 for a 30-day supply. Today, it is $1,680 for a 60-day supply.”
There is one catch. Instead of getting a physical prescription card, you'll have to use ArrayRx on your phone – a potential problem for the elderly and those without a smartphone – although pharmacists can also look up your enrollment.
BUYING POWER
The savings come from buying power. Connecticut is partnering with three other states: Washington, Nevada and Oregon. The discounts are negotiated using a pharmacy benefits manager – the “middleman” of drug coverage
“Whether you have insurance or not, you can use the card,” said state Comptroller Sean Scanlon. “Whether you have a high-deductible plan, or you don't have a high-deductible plan, you can use this card. If you're a senior on Medicare, you can use the card when your Medicare is not covering it.”
Scanlon said 98% of Connecticut’s 679 pharmacies will accept ArrayRx.
“HEALTH CARE IS UNAFFORDABLE”
ArrayRx is part of a new, wide-ranging law designed to lower drug prices. Pharmaceutical marketers will also have to register with the state and PBMs will face added scrutiny – although Scanlon said getting them to comply is a major challenge.
“It’s a never-ending fight because these bad actors are constantly changing the rules and changing the game,” he said.
The law was negotiated with Connecticut’s major hospital chains. But in a compromise, Lamont did not get a cap on the sometimes massive “out-of-network” fees hospitals can charge.
Republicans supported the health care law but said much more needs to be done.
“The Lamont administration just approved yet another near-double-digit health insurance rate hike,” said state Sen. Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield), the top Republican on the legislature’s Public Health Committee. “Senate Republicans continue to offer solutions to lower the cost of health care for working and middle-class families, and we hope the majority will join us in passing our ideas.”
On the federal level, Medicare can finally negotiate prices on 10 common drugs, including Eliquis and Jardiance.
But those savings won’t take effect for more than a year. Hardenbergh said ArrayRx offers relief now.
“Obviously, we will be out here promoting it as well to provide it as an option for patients if they're not able to pay for a med,” she said.