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January 9, 2013

Otsego seeks savings with drug program

COOPERSTOWN — Otsego County’s government is expecting to reap savings by encouraging its workers and retirees to acquire their prescription drugs from a Canadian-based pharmacy.

County employees are being introduced to the new program this week, county Treasurer Dan Crowell said.

If just 20 percent of the 833 county health plan subscribers join the program, the county will save $38,000, he said. If all subscribers join the program, the savings would grow to $188,000 annually.

As an incentive to join the program — known as CanaRx, and an affiliated entity called OtsegoMeds — the subscribers, who include retirees, will be given a $25 cash card, Crowell said.

The county has set aside $8,000 to fund that carrot, he said.

The medications that would be dispensed are name-brand drugs, he noted. The program is intended for those requiring ongoing “maintenance drugs,” rather than those prescribed drugs immediately following surgery, on a short-term basis.

John Imperato Sr., the leader of the local Civil Service Employees Union, said he expects that the county, by joining the program, will realize “considerable savings.”

“We negotiated for the ability to entertain this venue in our last contract negotiations,” he said.

Crowell stressed that participation in the program is voluntary.

“We really want to make it clear that we’re really not forcing this on anyone,” he said.

He said county officials initially approached the program cautiously, because of concerns about the legality of shipping the medications into the United States from Canada. But Albany, Montgomery and Schenectady counties have all had a smooth experience from their participation, and those initial concerns have been allayed, Crowell said.

Counting dependents of subscribers, 1,200 people are covered by the county health plan. Some county workers have opted out of the coverage because they are eligible for other insurance plans, he said.

Crowell said once a prescription is faxed or mailed to the Canadian operation, it will take about two weeks for the order to be delivered.

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