Kennedy Touts Discount Prescription Drug Plan

FALL RIVER — There’s strength in numbers, an idea that former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II is counting on to make his prescription drug program a success.

Kennedy came to the city yesterday to pitch his Citizens Health program, which uses massed buying power to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for the uninsured and the under-insured in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

“Prescription drugs can perform healing wonders and improve the quality of life for those suffering a variety of conditions,” Kennedy said. “But there are millions and millions of our fellow Americans who can see those benefits but can’t attain them.”

Kennedy is touring the state stumping for his program, which was unveiled last November. It offers discounts on all prescription drugs, regardless of whether the buyer has health insurance, with a $12 annual membership.

“With this program, Fall River’s working families and senior citizens will have grater access to low-cost prescription drugs,” said Fall River Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr., who hosted Kennedy at Government Center.

Kennedy claims the program can secure 25 percent to 35 percent discounts on most brand-name drugs, and 55 percent to 70 percent discounts on generic versions.

Kennedy secured these rates by negotiating directly with major drug companies and promising them that he can bring them customers who would otherwise not buy the drugs at all.

“They’re willing to play ball with us, because they think we can up utilization,” he said.

Citizens Health is a nonprofit spinoff of the larger organization led by Kennedy, Citizens Energy, which provides low-cost home-heating oil to the poor and elderly.

Kennedy’s been promoting the program and he says there are “tens of thousands” of members.

He believes he can tap into a market of 1.6 million people in the three states lacking prescription-drug coverage.

State Rep. Phil Travis, D-Rehoboth, who joined Kennedy at the podium yesterday, said that he felt that this program was particularly well-suited to Southeastern Massachusetts, with its large working-class communities.

“Many people in our area work at companies that have health plans that do not cover prescription drugs. This plan is not just for the poor, but for middle class, working class, working poor,” he said.