Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) and their pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics LLC (Prime) are launching an over-the-counter (OTC) discount card for Medicare Advantage members January 1, 2020.

BCBSNE’s Medicare Advantage members will receive a quarterly prepaid card by mail, redeemable for at least $25 per quarter. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved card will help purchase nearly 90,000 items like cold and allergy drugs, hearing aid batteries, oral care items and pain relievers. Once the balance has been spent for the quarter, the OTC card converts to a discount card.

“The OTC card benefit helps our Medicare Advantage members save on the supplementary costs of health items and other products that they may not have purchased after filling a prescription,” said Tom Gilsdorf, Director of Medicare Advantage at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. “It can be a difference maker for a person on a fixed income.”

As prescription drug costs continue to rise, people struggle to afford medicines. In fact, a recent study showed individuals who pay a large share of the cost for their diabetes medication were less likely to fill their prescription and continue to take it as directed. Yet, taking medication as directed and eating healthy foods has been proven to help stabilize diabetes, leading to fewer complications from the condition.

“It’s gratifying for Prime to administer a program that provides members with access to discounted OTC drugs and health products,” said Laura Terry, vice president of marketing, communications and product for Prime. “In partnership with BCBSNE, we’re making it easier for members to save where and when they like. Ultimately, this program is about improving the overall health of members. And, use of OTC products may help reduce medical expenses like doctor visits, which in turn can drive down overall health care costs.”

BCBSNE Medicare Advantage cardholders can scan products using a mobile app or visit an online portal to see participating retailers – including grocery, pharmacy and convenience stores – or order products for home delivery. Members can also track their past transactions and card balance.

BCBSNE is one of the first to offer the OTC program. Prime will expand the benefit to additional health plans in 2020.

To learn more about the OTC program visit Nebraskablue.com.