CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -  North Carolinians saved at least $80 million last year in direct out-of-pocket prescription costs when Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBNSC) told them to skip the copayment on generic drugs. The 2006 generic copayment waiver was part of a coordinated effort - which also included free flu shots and electronic prescribing -- to help members improve their health and save money.
In 2006, generic drugs were prescribed 58 percent of the time for BCBSNC members, up from 46.8 percent in 2004, the last time the company told members to put away their wallets when choosing a generic drug over a brand name drug, as prescribed by their doctors. Generic drugs are just as effective as brand name drugs but cost up to 80 percent less through BCBSNC’s pharmacy programs.
“We know that when patients can afford their medication, they take their medication,” said Dr. Ron Smith, vice president of Corporate Pharmacy at BCBSNC. “When a doctor can switch a patient from a brand name drug to a generic drug that’s just as effective, it contributes to our members’ overall good health.  Waiving the copayment saves them money, thereby lowering their health care costs.”
BCBSNC was the first insurer in North Carolina to promote the use of electronic prescribing, which also contributes to lower prescription drug costs, and also increases patient safety.  More than 1,000 doctors statewide now use free electronic prescribing technology provided through BCBSNC’s ePrescribe initiative, launched in January 2006. Electronic prescribing systems alert at what level a medication is covered by the patient’s insurance drug plans and also prompts doctors to prescribe generic drugs when appropriate for their patients.  The software identifies allergies or potential interactions with other drugs, thereby improving patient safety. First year highlights of BCBSNC’s ePrescribe initiative show:
  • Fifty-nine percent of electronic prescriptions were written for a generic drug.  
  • Throughout 2006, 29% of electronic prescriptions alerted prescribers of a potential drug-drug interaction, and 2% alerted of potential drug-allergy interactions – resulting in many of those prescriptions being changed or cancelled.  
  • More than 375,000 electronic prescriptions were generated for North Carolinians by our program in 2006, saving both doctors and patients valuable time
BCBSNC members also saved time and money when they rolled up their sleeves for a flu shot. Nearly 234,000 BCBSNC members took steps to avoid getting the flu in 2006 by getting a free flu shot at BCBSNC-sponsored regional clinics or at retail outlets across the state.  
“The flu vaccines we administered in 2006 represent a 43 percent increase from 2005,” said Smith.  “We know that every member who gets the flu racks up an average of $740 in medical costs.  Preventing the flu is another way to improve health and reduce health care costs.”
BCBSNC is a leader in promoting the use of generic medications and offering other innovative programs to help offset the costs of prescription drugs while improving overall patient health and safety.
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 3.4 million members, including approximately 748,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 73 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