June 12, 1997......Volume 26, Issue 33

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Q: Why doesn't the University offer an alternative to the maintenance drug prescription plan? An example would be a mail-in plan where no fee, or a small fee, would be charged. The plan requiring us to get our maintenance prescriptions at Ritenour is unsatisfactory for several reasons: the hours are not convenient, they are closed on weekends, they do not carry all medications, and they require a 48-hour waiting period to fill a new or existing prescription. The latter item is most inconvenient when a doctor prescribes medication which he/she would like a patient to begin taking immediately.

-- Maria, University Park

A: The Penn State Maintenance Prescription Drug Plan is offered as an alternative to the prescription drug coverage provided under the major medical provisions of both Healthpass PPO and the Hospital/Surgical/Major Medical Plan (Plan A). HealthAmerica HMO participants also may elect either the Maintenance Prescription Drug Plan or the 50/50 drug plan offered by HealthAmerica.

Prescription drug coverage represents a significant portion of the overall cost of the health care plans offered by Penn State. Consequently, the Employee Benefits Division is committed to exploring and implementing programs that can provide quality service that is affordable to both employees and the University. Evaluation of the Maintenance Prescription Drug Plan by mail-order drug providers concluded that they could not offer the same plan without an increase in cost to both employees and Penn State.

The Ritenour Pharmacy is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The schedule allows for time before the start of normal University business hours, but most employees use the campus mail system to order and receive their prescriptions. Pharmacy hours are reduced when the student population decreases and, like the rest of the University, is closed on holidays.

While the Maintenance Prescription Drug Plan Provides staff with significant discounts on certain drugs, the program was not designed to cover all drugs that may be prescribed. The primary mission of Ritenour is as a student health center. When the Maintenance Prescription Drug Plan was developed, the 48-hour period was established to allow Ritenour to attend to the needs of Penn State students while still providing a valuable service to faculty and staff. The staff at Ritenour pharmacy is very accommodating in emergency situations and other circumstances where the 48-hour waiting period would cause undue hardship to the patient. It is unlikely that a mail-order prescription program could provide less than a 48-hour turnaround.

Health care delivery systems continue to evolve and as they do, the Employee Benefits Division will continue to assess the systems and their effect on faculty and staff.

-- Phil Carlin, Benefits specialist, Office of Human Resources

If you have a question for the Glad you asked column, please send it, along with your name and office phone number, via e-mail to ask@psu.edu. For publication purposes, Intercom and Online Intercom will use the initials of the individuals sending the questions and their campus location or department, depending on the nature of the question. Submissions must include a contact name and telephone number so that Intercom can verify the source. Requests for anonymity will be honored.

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