One year ago, 25-year-old Dani Higgins, of Wichita, lost her health insurance when her father was laid off from his job.
Higgins, who has been unemployed for 18 months, said she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and needs a medication to get by day to day.
“It’s hard for me to go to the doctor, let alone get the prescription,” she said.
She’s glad that she can use a Kansas Drug Card which provides discounts of up to 75 percent on brand name and generic medications with the average savings around 30 percent.
“It has saved me a lot of money,” she said Monday by telephone. Higgins said she also has used it for antibiotics and pain medications and estimated it has saved between $12 and $50 per medicine. Higgins said her mother, who is uninsured, uses the card for medications she needs to help ease pain from rheumatoid arthritis.
“It has been a huge help,” she said.
The Kansas Drug Card program is a free, statewide prescription assistance program that was started three and a half years ago to help people who are uninsured and underinsured, but any Kansan, regardless of income, can use it.
For people with insurance, the program can be used to cover medications that aren’t covered by their insurance plan. In some cases, the card may offer cheaper prices than the insurance. But, residents can’t use both an insurance card and the Kansas Drug Card at the same time.
In addition to medications, the Kansas Drug Card offers discounts on items such as teeth whitening supplies, prescription eye glasses, dermatology creams, smoking cessation and weight loss assistance, hearing aids, eye drops and diabetic supplies.
Only about 3,200 residents are using the program, but Angela Garvey, Kansas Drug Card program director, hopes to change that.
“Many people are without benefits right now and medications are being cut in half or not taken at all or not being taken consistently due to lack of health care resources, so many people have to decide between their medications and their groceries and the food wins out so they don’t take their medicine,” Garvey said.
She is raising awareness about the program by traveling to doctors’ offices, safety net clinics, hospitals and pharmacies throughout the state. She recently was in Lawrence where about 420 people used the program in July.
Garvey said the program could be particularly helpful for people who are uninsured, part-time workers, college students and senior citizens. The Kansas Drug Program can be used to help cover the cost of medications when seniors fall into the Medicare Part D coverage gap, commonly known as the donut hole.
“So many people are really hurting for money right now and so they are cutting corners in places that can affect their health, and we are trying to work with them as much as possible so they can afford their medications,” Garvey said.
The card is accepted at more than 56,000 pharmacies nationwide, including Dillons, Hy-Vee, CVS, Walmart, Walgreens and Target, and the discounts will vary depending on the pharmacy. Kansans can get a card by:
• Visiting KansasDrugCard.com, where cards can be downloaded and printed.
• Calling Garvey at 913-638-8415 and she can mail a card.
• Visiting a participating pharmacy because many have the cards available. Doctors and clinics also may have them available.
The cards become active immediately and work like an insurance card. There is no expiration date. Garvey said prescriptions processed through the program are confidential.
“We follow strict privacy guidelines so we never use a patient’s information for anything including marketing. In fact someone can use the card anonymously if they opt to,” she said.
The program is funded through the support of the pharmacies and the pharmaceutical companies, Garvey said. She said it works in partnership with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Toni Witt, a pharmacist at the Hy-Vee Food Store on Sixth Street, said they’ve accepted Kansas Drug Cards for about two years.
“For most of our patients who don’t have any insurance coverage, we try to automatically put them on the program for any drugs that aren’t on our $4 list,” she said. “It offers a pretty significant discount.”
For those who have insurance, Witt said Hy-Vee can run both an insurance card and the Kansas Drug Card through its system to see which offers the best price. She said the insurance company typically provides the best deal.
Garvey said they are working to improve the online database at KansasDrugCard.com, where people can enter medications and see what the discount might be, but she said prices change often and so it only would be an estimate.
Garvey encourages everyone to get a card and have it on file at a participating pharmacy.
“You never know when you might be prescribed a drug that’s not covered or expensive,” she said.