Gov. Ned Lamont and Sens. Saud Anwar and Jorge Cabrera at Arrow Pharmacy (Mike Savino / CTNewsJunkie photo)

Starting next month, residents in Connecticut will be able to utilize a new program that will help some spend significantly less on prescription drugs. 

Residents will be able to use a discount card, called ArrayRX, that could save them up to 80% on generic prescription drugs and 20% on branded drugs, state Comptroller Sean Scanlon said Thursday. 

The discount cards will become active on Oct. 2, although residents can sign up ahead of time

“Everyday we see people come in that might not be able to afford medications, so this is another option that we can give people,” said Ed Anulewicz, a pharmacist at the Arrow Pharmacy in Hartford where Scanlon and other state officials announced the program during a press conference. 

Connecticut is joining Washington, Oregon and Nevada, three states that have contracted with pharmacy benefits manager Navitus to negotiate the discounts. Scanlon’s savings projections are based on the results from those states. 

Residents will be able to use the ArrayRX card at any pharmacy that has an agreement with Navitus. Scanlon said 98% of the state’s 679 pharmacies will take the card. 

The program currently does not offer physical cards. Instead, residents can either use an app or provide their name to a pharmacist, who can search for them in a database. 

Vera White, a senior and advocate with AARP, said the discount program will help her because her insurance coverage got worse after she retired. One medication previously cost $495 for a 30-day supply but now costs $1,680 for a 60-day supply, including $400 out-of-pocket for White. 

“It’s ridiculous and this bill can help so many people in my situation, where retirees who used to be able to afford it can now afford it,” White said. 

Everyone is eligible for the discount card, but Scanlon said some residents will find it more beneficial than others. 

He said seniors on Medicare, people with high-deductible plans and the uninsured will likely be able to save on some or all of their medications.

People with low deductibles and copays, on the other hand, may find the available discounts aren’t better than what they would pay through with their insurance. 

Scanlon said the discount card is part of a broader effort to try and reign in soaring healthcare costs. 

“We’ve got to do more to control the cost of healthcare,” he said. 

Lawmakers who supported the program agreed that more has to be done. 

“The cost of medicines is out of control,” said Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, co-chair of the legislature’s Public Health Committee and a doctor. 

Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, a ranking member of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, said part of the problem is Lamont’s Insurance Department, which last week approved an average premium increase of 9.4% for individual insurance plans sold in Connecticut. 

“I was an enthusiastic supporter of creating this prescription drug discount card program,” Hwang said in a statement. “We do, however, have much more work to do in this area if we ever hope to rein in these unsustainable increases.”  

Lamont, meanwhile, said the federal government ultimately needs to take the lead on bringing healthcare costs under control. 

“We have the best healthcare in the world right here in the state of Connecticut, but it’s unfair, unequal and affordable,” he said. 

Until then, Connecticut will continue to take a piecemeal approach to do what it can. 

Scanlon said one of the major drivers is pharmacy benefit managers. While the consortium of states is partnering with Navitus to negotiate discounts, critics have said PBMs have generally helped drive up the cost. 

PBMs have carved out a role as middlemen who negotiate drug prices on behalf of insurers, large employers and others who pay for healthcare. 

PBMs have the ability to decide which drugs an insurance plan covers, and in some instances they’ve used that power to keep the savings and rebates they negotiate instead of passing it to patients. 

“It’s a never ending fight because these bad actors are constantly changing the rules and change the game,” Scanlon said, noting PBMs have even imposed gag orders on pharmacists that prevent them from telling consumers they can purchase another drug for a lower cost. 

The legislature has previously approved a law aimed at creating more transparency, but Scanlon said PBMs have found ways to continue their practices while complying with the law.