CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) today announced it is stepping up efforts to help its members save money on prescription drugs. The state’s largest health insurer is extending its zero-copayment program for generic prescription drugs through the end of 2006.
The 2006 copayment waiver program, which began Feb. 1, was initially scheduled to end on July 31.
"We've demonstrated that waiving drug copayments is a strong incentive for our members to discuss generic alternatives with their doctors," said Bob Greczyn, BCBSNC president and CEO. "Extending our copayment waiver program through the end of the year gives our members more opportunities to save on out-of-pocket prescription costs."
BCBSNC's decision to extend the copayment waiver program an additional five months is based on the success of the program so far this year. During the first three months of the program – February through April 2006 – members saved a total of about $20 million on out-of-pocket prescription expenses, BCBSNC claims data show.
Also during that time period, BCBSNC’s generic dispensing rate rose to 56 percent of all prescriptions, up from 51 percent at the end of 2005. Before the company's first generic copayment waiver program in late 2004, 47 percent of BCBSNC prescriptions were for generics.
Generic drugs are equivalent to corresponding brand-name drugs in active ingredients, dosage, strength, safety and performance, but typically cost 30 percent to 70 percent less than comparable brand-name drugs, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"Pharmacy costs are one of the biggest expenses health insurers and their customers face," said Ron Smith, PharmD, BCBSNC vice president of Corporate Pharmacy. "Promoting generics is an important part of our effort to rein in prescription drug expenses."
To take advantage of the generic copayment waiver, eligible members need to have their generic prescription filled at any participating BCBSNC pharmacy by Dec. 31, 2006. The copayment will automatically be waived when the prescription is filled. In addition, any applicable coinsurance costs to members will be waived. On some coverage plans, a deductible must be met before the member is eligible for the copayment waiver program.
BCBSNC members are free to choose higher-cost brand-name drugs even when generic alternatives are available. The aim of the program is to encourage members to discuss drug alternatives with their physicians, and decide together if a generic drug might be an appropriate alternative to brand-name choices.
The 2006 generic copayment waiver program is open to: BCBSNC members of fully insured and self-funded employer groups purchasing pharmacy benefits from BCBSNC; members with individual products who have pharmacy benefits (except for Medicare Part D members because of federal regulations), and Medicare Supplemental customers with pharmacy benefits. Members of the State Health Plan or the Federal Employee Program are not eligible because those plans do not contract with BCBSNC to administer their drug benefits.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.3 million members, including approximately 691,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 72 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolina through support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Access BCBSNC online at