United Methodist Association offers prescription drug program (April 5, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

United Methodist Association offers prescription drug program

April 5, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0052}

Group partners with DestinationRx to help uninsured with prescription drug costs.

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND - A prescription drug plan aimed at assisting those with no prescription drug plan coverage is off to a fast start in its first month of service, with more than 10,000 people enrolled in the program.

A prescription drug plan launched in March by the United Methodist Association (UMA) in conjunction with Destination Rx, a Los Angeles-based firm, is offering The United Methodist Church's 8.3 million U.S. members a free prescription card that is accepted at pharmacies such as Eckerd's, Kmart and Target. The card is available to all United Methodists, regardless of their insurance coverage, income or health status. The prescription drug plan is not health insurance.

UMA is a national association of United Methodist-related ministries and individual professionals who work in a faith-based, health-care setting. The Dayton, Ohio-based organization serves nearly 400 health and human service organizations and professionals nationwide.

The Rev. Dr. Mearle Griffith, president and chief executive officer of UMA, said the group was approached by the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) about two years ago to look into a possible way to bring relief to the millions of United Methodists without prescription drug coverage.

"We thought we could use the economic and numerical strength of the denomination to help the people who are hurting most," Griffith said. "We looked at several companies and found DestinationRx to be the best one."

Griffith said 10,000 prescription cards have gone out and another 3,000 people have inquired about the plan through DestinationRx. He said success stories are starting to trickle through, as well.

"There is a woman in my Sunday School class who is helping out an elderly couple, and they spend $1,000 to $1,200 per month on prescription drugs," Griffith said. "One had to take three pills a day, and because they were so expensive they were only one pill a day. They were having to make decisions such as to have their prescriptions refilled or buying groceries. They enrolled in the program, and now they save $300 a month on their prescriptions."

While Griffith may be singing the praises of the program, it is not endorsed by the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church.

Bob Preusch, General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB) managing director of Plan Services, said the discounts offered through the DestinationRx program should not be confused with insured health benefits. He said GBPHB has not evaluated the program or how the discounts compare with those offered by other companies.

Griffith said the DestinationRx program is primarily intended for those without insurance benefits. He said the program does provide savings for non-covered items such as birth control, smoking cessation, cosmetic and fertility products and anti-obesity medications.

"The people who will benefit the greatest are the people who don't have a prescription program," he said.

Those numbers are alarmingly high, according to Dr. Cherian Thomas, executive secretary for GBGM's Health and Welfare Ministries. He said they approached the United Methodist Association due to the thousands of people without prescription plan coverage.

"People have to pay so much, and we wanted to see if we could get some help for them," Thomas said. "A consultant with us found DestinationRx to be the best, at no cost to the church."

Jane Ehrman, a health consultant with GBGM, said she researched prescription drug companies for more than two years and found DestinationRx offered the best product line, communication services and integrity. She said the prescription drug plan will primarily benefit the elderly or poor or anyone without a prescription drug plan.

"We became involved in this because The United Methodist Church has always been passionate about social issues," Ehrman said. "Our focus is mission and health and welfare issues. The cost of prescription drugs to our members ties into that."

Church members can obtain their cards by visiting http://www.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=3647
or by calling 1-800-379-9040 and referring to the United Methodist Association.

More information about this new benefit is available on the Florida Conference's Health and Wholeness Ministry Web page at http://www.flumc.org/umdrugbenefits.htm.


This article relates to Health and Wellness and Outreach.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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