Kent Health Plan Covers Seniors

    GRAND RAPIDS — If a Republican-controlled Congress passes the prescription drug plan offered by President George W. Bush last week for the nation’s elderly, senior citizens across most of the nation may have to give up their Medicare coverage and change doctors to gain relief from the high cost of prescribed medicine.

    But not those here in Kent County.

    Kent County seniors can stay with Medicare and their physicians and still get discounts on prescriptions by enrolling in the Senior Discount Prescription Program (SDPP) from the Kent Health Plan Corp. (KHPC).

    KHPC opened enrollment in SDPP last September to county residents aged 65 or older and without drug coverage. Since then, over 5,000 have joined and are saving an average of 20 percent on each prescription they fill with the SDPP card. Discounts range from 5 to 70 percent, enrollment is free, and most local pharmacies participate in the program.

    “Kent Health Plan has partnered with a pharmacy benefit manager called Claimspro who negotiated prices with pharmacies that are lower than the retail prices that people would pay as cash customers,” said KHPC President Chuck Zech.

    “The lower prices are then made available to members who show their membership cards at the pharmacy,” he added.

    Seniors can get enrollment applications at and at several local agencies that support seniors. For more information about SDPP, call KHPC at 975-0146.

    Under the plan proposed by Bush last week, seniors would likely have to leave Medicare, and possibly their physicians, and join a private insurer, such as an HMO, in order to qualify for prescription coverage. The private coverage would be subsidized by public money.

    “Seniors happy with the current Medicare system should be able to keep their coverage just the way it is,” said Bush in his State of the Union speech. “And just like you, the members of Congress, and your staffs and other federal employees, all seniors should have the choice of a health care plan that provides prescription coverage.”

    KHPC is a not-for-profit organization created in May 2001 to improve access to health care for thousands of the estimated 55,000 persons in the county without health insurance.

    “The high cost of some prescription drugs has forced patients to forego their medications or take smaller doses than their physician prescribed,” said Dr. William Cunningham, KHPC board president. “This program will help ease the financial burden that may compromise the successful management of a medical condition.”           

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