Discount drug cards aren’t always a prescription for savings


By Robert Joiner, Beacon staff   

Posted 10:56 am Thu., 5.19.11


Illinois consumers are being flooded this week with offers of a free program that is supposed to help them save money at the pharmacy. Called the Illinois Rx Card, the program promises savings of 30 percent on average for generics and 14 percent for brand-name drugs. The card is available to all residents, regardless of income.


That doesn’t mean this card offers the cheapest option. A Schnucks in St. Louis recently charged a customer nothing for 30 tablets of amoxicillin, an antibiotic. But Rx Card’s website shows that the same 30 pills of the same strength sell for $18.50 at Schnucks and $19.48 at Walgreens, both in East St. Louis. The website adds that the amount is an estimate, and that the price is subject to change.


Mike Rogers, program director for Illinois Rx Card, says the program offers an advantage over many other cards by discounting all drugs. The program is part of United Networks of America,which calls itself the nation’s largest provider of value-added managed-care products and services. It is not a state-run program.


Illinois Rx Card claims consumers have saved about $815 million through its network of services ranging from dental and vision care to cosmetic surgery and smoking cessation programs.


Mike Patton, executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association in Springfield, says he has heard plenty of hype over the years about discount cards.


“There are many such programs out there. They get a lot of publicity, and people go out and get their cards. Unfortunately, they are somewhat short-lived.”


Patton says the association has identified about 300 patient assistant programs in Illinois, including discount cards and programs online. The programs usually make their money by helping pharmaceutical companies increase their sales, Patton says. In some instances, he says a pharmacy benefit manager or PBM might earn money through rebates for helping a prescription drug company increase its market share. PBMs administer prescription drug plans and negotiate discounts and rebates.


“It’s the PBM that benefits from these discount cards,” Patton says. He adds that the losers usually are independent pharmacists in Illinois because “much of the cost will probably fall on their shoulders. They are going out of business because Illinois (Medicaid) isn’t paying them (enough) and reimbursement levels by insurance companies are depressed.”


So why do pharmacists accept the cards?


“They need people walking in the door,” Patton says. “The business is so competitive these days when you have stores like Walmart that might provide a prescription drug for $4, and some stores are literally giving away antibiotics.” While discount cards offer some savings to consumers, Patton says the hype can be misleading.


“The thing that’s not pointed out in most of these plans is that if I have a $20 co-pay on my drug plan, it doesn’t mean the discount card is going to reduce the co-pay.”


He says that co-pay is often pocketed by the PBM rather than the pharmacy.






Thursday, May. 19, 2011


New York Life Adds Seven New Teams to the Scoreboard of Major League Baseball Sponsorship Geared to ‘Safe’ Calls


Company Ads Are Triggered When A MLB Base Runner Slides Safely


NEW YORK — New York Life Insurance Company today announced the launch of a television sponsorship with seven new Major League Baseball teams that leverages ‘safe calls’ as a way to remind viewers that New York Life has been keeping families safe and secure for more than 166 years. The seven new teams are: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers and the Colorado Rockies.


This season the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, and San Francisco Giants are part of the sponsorship for a second season. The sponsorship includes New York Life’s Safe and Secure feature which is triggered when a player slides safely at 2nd, 3rd or home plate. The feature includes New York Life’s logo and will also be read live by the play by play announcer. For example, if Lance Berkman of the St. Louis Cardinals slides safely into home plate, New York Life’s blue box will appear on the screen with the words, “Safe At Home”, the box rotates to say “Safe and Secure” and rotates again to read “New York Life,” the company’s official logo. The sponsorship will continue throughout the MLB regular season.


“This message integrates naturally into the action of the ball game, and is a great reminder to fans who are cheering for their favorite players to reach base safely, that they too can be safe and secure with the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States,” said Christopher Sorgie, corporate vice president and advertising director at New York Life.


There is a bonus feature if a game ends either with a game winning run in the 9th inning, or in extra innings by the home team. The feature will display “Secured the Win” and then rotate to “Safe and Secure” and then “New York Life” and include a voice over.

The sponsorship includes 100 games for the ten teams. All games will air on Fox Sports Net-affiliated networks during the regular MLB season, airing on the following networks: WGN (White Sox), WGN (Cubs), NESN (Red Sox), CSN (Phillies), FSN-Midwest (Cardinals), FSN-Wisconsin (Brewers), FSN-Southwest (Rangers), FSN-Rocky Mountain (Rockies), FSN-Ohio (Reds) and CSN-BA (Giants). New York Life’s media agency, Targetcast, negotiated the deal with Fox Home Team Sports on behalf of each of the broadcast networks.


This Safe and Secure feature runs alongside New York Life’s existing national ad campaign, part of an integrated marketing communications program that has helped the company’s 11,900 agents drive record life insurance and annuity sales despite the continued unsteadiness of the economy.


New York Life Insurance Company, a Fortune 100 company founded in 1845, is the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States* and one of the largest life insurers in the world. New York Life has the highest possible financial strength ratings from all four of the major credit rating agencies. Headquartered in New York City, New York Life’s family of companies offers life insurance, retirement income, investments and long-term care insurance. New York Life Investments** provides institutional asset management and retirement plan services. Other New York Life affiliates provide an array of securities products and services, as well as institutional and retail mutual funds. Please visit New York Life’s Web site at for more information.


*Based on revenue as reported by “Fortune 500, Ranked within Industries, Insurance: Life, Health (Mutual),” Fortune magazine, May 5, 2011. See for methodology.


**New York Life Investments is a service mark used by New York Life Investment Management Holdings LLC and its subsidiary, New York Life Investment Management LLC.






Cubs Showing Interest In Kevin Millwood

AUTHOR: Jordan Campbell 


The common theme for the Chicago Cubs this season has been their starting pitching. With injuries to Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, and the top three in the rotation not pitching to their level of expectation the Cubs starting rotation has been a disappointment this season. Most of that blame falls on the temporary fourth and fifth starters in the rotation Casey Coleman and James Russell.


But with Randy Wells about a week away, and Doug Davis taking over as the fifth starter the Cubs rotation figures to solidify over the next few weeks. Though, Andrew Cashner will likely be sidelined until mid-July, though some believe that the Cubs may eventually shutdown Cashner for the rest of the season. It is too early to tell if that will be the case, but the Cubs are mulling over their options.


According to Jon Heyman (Via MLB Trade Rumors), the Cubs are among three teams that are showing interest in free agent starting pitcher Kevin Millwood. The Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox were the other two teams that were mentioned as possible suitors for Millwood.

The Cubs interest in Millwood does not make too much sense. As with Randy Wells being close to a return, and Doug Davis looking like the solution for the fifth starter’s spot the Cubs rotation does not appear to have any areas of need. Unless of course, Davis struggles out of the fifth spot in the rotation.

Even then, the Cubs could turn to other options in the minor leagues such as Ramon Ortiz, Jay Jackson, or another young pitcher that is ready to make their major league debut.


Having opted out of his contract with the Yankees this season on May 1, Millwood is likely to get the major league minimum from any team that signs him. So it would not be a financial risk for the Cubs to sign him. But regardless, the Cubs do not have a desperate need for Millwood. If signed by the Cubs, Millwood would serve as an insurance policy while pitching in Triple A-Iowa.




Fenway Park vs. Wrigley Field


By PAUL DOYLE, pdoyle@courant.comThe Hartford Courant

12:11 p.m. EDT, May 19, 2011


For years, they mirrored one another — the Cubs and Red Sox were lovable losers, cursed franchises with loyal fans and historic homes. Of course, things changed in Boston and the Red Sox have won two titles in two titles since 2004. Meanwhile, the Cubs are still searching. At least they still have one thing in common: Fenway Parkand Wrigley Field remain historic reminders of another era. As the Cubs visit Boston this weekend, let’s compare the two baseball cathedrals:




Fenway: April 20, 1912

Wrigley: April 23, 1914


Early Life


Fenway: Red Sox moved from Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds when the team purchased land in the Fenway neighborhood and constructed a stadium for $650,000.


Wrigley: First constructed for $250,000 as a home for Federal League team, it became the Cubs home in 1916 after the Federal League folded. Originally called Weeghman Park and Cubs Park, it was named Wrigley Field in 1926.


First Night Game


Fenway: June 13, 1947

Wrigley: Aug. 9, 1988


Distinctive Trait


Fenway: The 37-foot high left field wall, known as the Green Monster.


Wrigley: Ivy vines adorning the outfield fence, first planted by Bill Veeck in Sept. 1937.




Fenway: Triangle in center field, Pesky’s Pole just 302 feet down the right field line, grandstand seats behind poles


Wrigley: Strong early season wind currents, netting hanging above the outfield fence, grandstand seats behind poles


Unique View


Fenway Park: Monster seats atop the left field wall.


Wrigley: Rooftop seats across Waveland Avenue.




Fenway Park: 37,400.

Wrigley: 41,160.


Also Known As …


Fenway: Lyric little bandbox of a ballpark, written by John Updike.


Wrigley: The Friendly Confines, coined by Ernie Banks.




Fenway: Bambino

Wrigley: Billy Goat




Fenway: Anyone wearing pinstripes

Wrigley: Steve Bartman


Memorable Moment


Fenway: Carlton Fisk’s game-ending home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series as he seemingly willed the ball fair down the left field line..


Wrigley: Babe Ruth’s called shot in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series




Fenway: Roger Clemens’ 20-strikeout game, Ted Williams homering in his final at-bat, Carl Yastrzemski’s 3,000th hit, Dave Roberts’ stolen base, Jon Lester’s no-hitter.


Wrigley: Kerry Woods’ 20-strikeout game, Ernie Bank’s 500th homer, Sammy Sosa’s 60th homer, Pete Rose’s 4,191st hit, the first night game.




Fenway: Sold out for 653 consecutive games, dating back to 2003


Wrigley: Hosted 5,687 consecutive day games before the first night game in 1988


Manual Labor


Fenway: Grounds crew workers change numbers in the hand-turned scoreboard on The Green Monster.


Wrigley: Grounds crew workers change numbers on the hand-turned scoreboard above the center field bleachers.




Fenway: Fans sing-a-long to “Sweet Caroline” in the eighth inning, a tradition started in the late 1990s and done continuously since 2002.


Wrigley: Celebrity guest serenades the crowd with “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” carrying on Harry Caray’s tradition.


Statues Outside


Fenway: Ted Williams, The Teammates (Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr)


Wrigley: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Harry Caray




Fenway: 2010 NHL Winter Classic, international soccer, home for the Boston Patriots (1963-1968), home for the NASL Beacons (1968), site of various local college football teams and various concerts over the past few years.


Wrigley: 2009 NHL Winter Classic, home for the NFL Bears (1921-1970), home for the NASL Sting (1977-82, 1984), site of Illinois-Northwestern football game in 2010 and various concerts over the past few years.






DuPage County to Finalize New District Map Using 2010 Census Data


Data from the 2010 Census shows that DuPage County District 3 must pick up around 5,000 residents.


By Joseph Hillenmeyer | Email the author | 11:32am


With 2010 Census data compiled, redistricting is now taking place across the state, including DuPage County, where district lines are being redrawn.


Two district maps for DuPage County were proposed this week. The county will hold a Redistricting Public Hearing at 6 p.m., Monday, May 23, in the third floor County Board Room, 421 N. County Farm Road. 


The DuPage County Board, by law, must draw equally apportioned districts, according to the DuPage County Redistricting Committee. The six districts in DuPage must be drawn so that 152,821 people live in each.


“We’ve been working hard to make sure our district lines do not change dramatically because we want our constituents to feel like they live in a fair and balanced district,” said DuPage County Board Member Brian Krajewski (District 3), who is on the Redistricting Committee.


Census results mandate that DuPage County District 3—which includes portions of Downers Grove, Burr Ridge, Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills, Darien and Woodridge—pick up 4,915 people. District 5, which includes almost all of Naperville and much of Aurora, will lose around 12,000 people. Most of the lines will be redrawn in District 5 because it is bordered by two districts which must add constituents—Districts 3 and 4, said Krajewski.


After the 2000 Census, “a map was thrown up with the new lines right before the

[board] members had to vote on it,” Krajewski said. “This year we are trying to get a little more input and we created a redistricting committee back in September. We’ve had meetings, probably half a dozen, both countywide and for each district. Our regular meetings have also all been open to public comment.”


“This process should not just include our input, but also the input of our constituents,” he said. 






Thursday, May 19,2011


Corporations make Illinois pay to keep them here




With the economy the way it is, just about every state in the country is frantically scrambling to keep their local corporations from leaving, or attracting new jobs by doling out huge government incentives.  

Illinois, of course, is a special case, which means it’ll probably cost us lots more to keep and attract jobs than just about any other state.

Our years-long political civil war between former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and House Speaker Mike Madigan during the worst international economic crisis since the Great Depression saddled the state with migraines for years to come. No problems were solved or even addressed while everything was collapsing around them during their fight to the death. By the time Blagojevich was finally arrested, impeached and removed from office, the state found itself with a $9 billion hole in its budget.

Blagojevich’s criminal reputation and our horrific financial problems have made us a national laughingstock. The recent income tax hike passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn prompted other governors to openly deride us and publicly (and privately) goad our employers into leaving.

Our extremely high workers’ compensation costs (second in the nation) were treated to a nasty media spotlight with the uncovering of a workers’ compensation scandal at a state prison. Hundreds of state workers filed for and received big workers’ comp checks because, they claimed, turning heavy cell-door keys gave them carpal tunnel syndrome. Even worse, the state didn’t attempt to find out if most of those workers had filed valid complaints. The howls of derisive laughter could be heard far and wide.

We’re such a popular punching bag that Missouri actually appealed a lawsuit all the way up to the United States Supreme Court to insist that protecting some of its farmland in a federally designated Mississippi River flood zone was infinitely more important than the 80-year-old Army Corps of Engineers plan to save Illinois towns along the river from drowning. The delay caused by that lawsuit may have resulted in the severe flooding of at least one southern Illinois town. 

So, when Motorola Mobility said it might move away, it got $100 million in state tax credits. Gov. Pat Quinn claimed afterward that the company had to pledge to invest $500 million in research and development, but that investment was apparently the company’s plan all along, no matter where it went.  

Groupon, the fastest growing company in America last year, barely had to glance at other states and got $3.5 million in pledged tax credits from Gov. Quinn.  

Caterpillar’s CEO sent a letter to the governor revealing that the company was being recruited to move to another state. That caused the entire establishment to suffer a collective nervous breakdown, and the media, of course, had a field day. Never mind that the CEO later said he had no intention of moving and wanted to work to make his state better place to do business. The media’s theme was firmly established, so it was just too easy to just write stories and columns about Illinois’ impending doom.

The latest threat to move elsewhere is from Sears. 

Twenty-one years ago the company was loaded up with millions in state and local tax incentives to stay in Illinois. But those incentives are expiring next year and the struggling, aging behemoth has its hand out yet again. 

If Illinois doesn’t pay up, Sears could move its headquarters away, taking 6,000 direct jobs with it and costing us thousands more jobs via suppliers, contractors and businesses which rely on Sears employees for their livelihoods. The economic and tax implications would be huge. So, since it would cost far more to let Sears leave than to keep it around, expect a juicy deal to be put on the table.

Face it, we’ve made our own bed here and now we’re being held hostage and there’s almost nothing we can do about it except to try and cut the best deals possible. 

It’s distasteful as all get-out, but we’re basically left with no good choices. And the more deals we cut, the more deals we’ll have to cut. Until we can overcome our serious, long-standing problems, we’re at their mercy – and corporate CEOs are not generally known to have an abundance of that human quality.