'U' launches new prescription drug plan

Daily News Editor
Published April 17, 2006

The University unveiled a program today that will provide its diabetic employees with free and reduced cost drugs, setting a new standard for innovative health care plans in institutions of higher education.

Under the MHealthy: Focus on Diabetes two-year pilot program, which begins July 1, diabetic patients will not be charged co-pay for generic drugs that control blood sugar, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart and kidney problems and relieve depression, such as insulin and ACE inhibitors.

The high cost of these medications often hinder University employees and their dependents with all types of diabetes from receiving proper treatment, said William Herman, M-CARE's medical director. M-CARE is the University's managed care company. The program is available to University employees with any health insurance plan.

The University is the first college to offer a modified co-pay plan such as MHealthy.

"We hope it will be a model for the nation," said Public Health Prof. Allison Rosen, who will evaluate the program's progress and success.

Proponents want to prove the program's effectiveness to lawmakers in order to encourage the implementation of similar programs in the future.

Herman said the total cost of the program for the University could surpass $800,000, adding that there is no projected return on investment because the program's value is largely intangible.

Although the initial financial burden on the University will be great, supporters said that the program could enhance the health and overall quality of life of University employees.

Herman said many diabetics cut back on life-saving medications due to high co-pays. Diabetics may take an average of six to 10 medications, which can add up to hundreds of dollars per month in co-pays. At the University, 2,100 employees receive diabetes medications.

The University currently follows a three-tiered co-pay system. The new program will make generic drugs in the first tier free, preferred brand name drugs in the second tier half-off and non-preferred brand name drugs in the third tier twenty-five percent off.

Proponents of the program said they hope the reductions in cost will promote increased adherence to prescription regimens.

The University has also considered reducing co-pays for medications for other chronic diseases, such as asthma and heart disease.