CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) is once again waiving copayments on generic drugs, giving its members an opportunity for significant savings on prescription drug costs. The 2006 copayment waiver program begins Feb. 1 and will continue through July 31.
The company projects that the 2006 program will save members approximately $36 million in prescription drug costs.
BCBSNC's decision to waive copayments on generic drugs is based on the success of the company's initial copayment waiver program in late 2004. During that three-month program, eligible BCBSNC members collectively saved approximately $17.6 million in prescription out-of-pocket costs. As a result of the program, 22 percent of eligible members using brand-name medications switched to generic alternatives.
"We're again making it possible for our members to save money on their health care expenses," said Bob Greczyn, BCBSNC president and CEO. "The results of our 2004 program were so successful that we are extending it to a six-month period this year. Using generics when appropriate cuts members' out-of-pocket expenses, but it also helps hold down overall medical costs. Since prescription drug costs are a key driver of rising medical costs, the long-term increased use of generics impacts future premiums to the benefit of our customers."
Generic drugs are equivalent to corresponding brand-name drugs in active ingredients, dosage, strength, safety and performance. But generics typically cost 30 percent to 70 percent less than comparable brand-name drugs.
"The six-month waiver period will give our members the opportunity to discuss generic alternatives with their physician," said Dr. Bob Harris, BCBSNC senior vice president and chief medical officer. "Members typically pay more for branded drugs. However, since generic drugs are clinically equivalent to brand drugs and meet all requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they provide a safe and effective treatment alternative that can help our members save money."
To take advantage of the generic copayment waiver, eligible members will need to present their generic prescription at a participating BCBSNC pharmacy between Feb. 1 and July 31. The copayment will automatically be waived when the prescription is filled. In addition, any applicable coinsurance costs to members will be waived. Deductibles must be met before the member is eligible for the program.
BCBSNC members are free to choose higher-cost brand-name drugs even when generic alternatives are available. Members are encouraged 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), and Medicare Supplemental customers with pharmacy benefits. The program is not open to members of the State Health Plan or the Federal Employee Program because BCBSNC does not administer drug benefits for those plans.
The program is the latest in a series of BCBSNC initiatives aimed at helping lower prescription drug costs. Earlier this month, the company announced plans for its ePrescribeSM program to promote and fund the adoption of electronic prescribing for targeted North Carolina physicians. The technology will generate cost savings by avoiding inappropriate or unnecessary prescriptions, increasing accuracy and improving the ability to look up generic alternatives to brand-name prescription drugs.
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 638,000 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