Prescription discount program debuts in Los Angeles

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Councilman Ed Reyes debuted a prescription discount card at the St. Barnabas Senior Center in Westlake Thursday. The simple white and blue card could save Angelenos up to 20 percent off of their regular prescriptions. The card is free, does not require any paperwork and is available to anyone.

“With this card, people of any age, residency, status or level of health care coverage will be able to secure a 20 percent discount on any prescription medications,” Reyes said.

But the discount card seems a little too good to be true. Here is how it works: If one of your medications is already covered by your insurance, the card will not apply. It only works toward medication that is not covered.

A pharmacist at the CVS pharmacy on Cesar Chavez Boulevard said she fills about 200 prescriptions a day. She declined to give her name, but she said about 50 percent of the daily prescriptions she fills are covered. However, cosmetic prescriptions like acne medication and face creams usually are not. That is where the card could come in handy. CVS Caremark distributes the card.

Another catch is not all pharmacies will accept it. Pharmacies like Rite Aid and Walgreens must choose to participate in the program. So who foots the bill? The pharmacies do.

Brad Stone, who represents CVS Caremark, explains why nine out of 10 retail pharmacies would absorb the costs.

“It’s a good customer loyalty program, drives traffic in their stores, but [the pharmacies] is where the discount comes from,” he said.

The discount card is already used in places like Chicago, Orlando and Atlanta. Los Angeles residents will be able to pick up the card at most community centers and city district offices.