|By Holly McCray
Persons enrolled in the Conference Health Benefits Plan no longer make co-payments on several generic medicines.
That’s right: $0 co-pays. The Conference Plan has begun covering in full the costs for certain generics, as the result of a recent revision in the Plan’s drug coverage. (MaxCare is the Plan’s pharmacy benefits network.)
The change also includes some over-the-counter drugs and tobacco cessation products.
And it applies for retirees as well as active Plan participants.
The revision saves money not only for individuals but also the entire Oklahoma Conference family. That’s key to why Stephen Mitchell, benefits/personnel director, and Treasurer Brian Bakeman endorsed the change.
In place of brand-name medicines, the increased use of equivalent, lower-cost generic drugs will lower costs for all, even with the Plan fully paying those prescriptions, the officers said.
The Conference Health Benefits Plan, a self-funded program, claims about one-fourth of the total Apportionment from local churches. That amount is $4.4 million for 2014.
The emphasis on choosing generic drugs is among several ways that Plan leaders follow fiscal prudence while assisting Oklahoma United Methodist clergy and their families with medical needs. Delegates at the 2013 Annual Conference approved related changes in the Apportionment system. And a wellness plan launches Jan. 1.
"We are all on the team," Mitchell said.
A generic substitute — the chemical equivalent of the brand-name drug — can cost 20 to 80 percent less than the brand-name product, he explained.
For a one-month supply, average retail costs nationally are $169 for a brand-name drug and $27 for a generic. In the Oklahoma Conference, average costs are $194 for a brand-name and $34 for a generic drug, according to statistics from Mitchell.
The Plan paid out $256,274 for all prescription drug claims in the month of July 2013, he offered as an example.
"Talk to your doctor, then talk to your pharmacist," he urged. "This is one piece you can use."
To permit use of generics, the prescription must be written to indicate that. Ask your doctor if your medication is available in generic form. "In many cases, the answer is yes," Mitchell said.
Also, a prescription for a 90-day supply of maintenance drugs, prescribed for chronic needs, is less expensive than monthly refills.
At www.okumc.org/benefits, find a list of the specific generic drugs now available for $0 co-pay. Click on "Drug Update Plan." To call MaxCare customer service: 800-259-7765.
A sampling of the generic drugs now covered are:
Oral anti-diabetics—metformin, glyburide, gliclazide, glipizide, and glimepride.
Anti-hypertensives and beta blockers—lisinopril, losartan, and atenolol.
Statins for high cholesterol—atorvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, and simvastatin.