County's drug program saving money

Schenectady County Legislature Chairwoman Susan Savage, D-Niskayuna, announced on Wednesday, Jan. 21, that Schenectady County's employee and retiree drug costs dropped in 2008, resulting in a savings of $2,537,804.

This also results in a lower property tax rate for Schenectady County residents, she said.

When I became chairman of the Legislature in 2004, the Legislature asked our staff to negotiate and implement new and progressive cost-saving reforms in healthcare. These reforms have succeeded beyond all expectations, said Savage in a written statement.

According to Savage, health insurance drug costs are escalating. Schenectady County's Schenectady Meds program reduced the bottom-line costs for 2008 by $31,014. For 2008, Schenectady County budgeted $5,879,000 but only ended up spending $4,149,252 for drug costs. The total savings was $729,748 under the budgeted amount for 2008.

"If Schenectady County had not adopted the innovative Schenectady Meds reforms in 2005, and if Schenectady County stayed with the old way of doing business with 12 percent annual drug cost increases, our expenditures for pharmaceuticals for 2008 would be more than $2.5 million higher than they actually were in 2008," said Savage.

The Schenectady Meds program uses Canadian and U.S. mail order pharmaceuticals to save money. The companies used are CanaRx and Express Scripts Mail Order. According to CanaRx's Web site, customers can save up to 60 percent on most "maintenance medications."

According to Schenectady County Attorney Chris Gardner, CanaRx was chosen because of its good reputation. He said Springfield, Mass. had already been using it, and Civil Service Employees Association officials visited their facilities and were "quite impressed with how they operated."

He also said that there aren't many companies who are doing business with the United States.

"CSEA were the ones who initially expressed interest in this as an alternative to other healthcare costs, so it was an alternative that was acceptable to them and that made it an easier sell to the employees since we had the union leadership on board with it," said Gardner.

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