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Low-cost Generic Prescription Drug Plan to Provide Critical Relief for Colorado Small Businesses

DENVER, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Small businesses are straining under the pressure of sharply rising health insurance costs, leading many employers to cut their employee coverage. To provide critical relief for local companies, Nationwide today announced the introduction of Nationwide Select(TM), the first stand-alone generic drug plan geared specifically to small to mid-size businesses in the state of Colorado.

Joining forces with Medco Health Solutions, Inc. (NYSE:MHS) , the nation's leading pharmacy benefit manager, Nationwide Select brings together the proven cost savings of generics with mail-order delivery to offer businesses a prescription drug plan that is up to half the cost of traditional plans, with members receiving up to a 90-day supply of generic drugs for a $10 co-pay.

Many small businesses have seen their premiums rise as much as 50 percent over the past several years, making health care costs their number one problem according to a recent study by the National Federation of Independent Business Trade Group. With the average generic drug costing approximately 70 percent less than its branded counterpart -- and nearly 75 percent of all FDA approved drugs available in generic form -- fully utilizing these lower-cost alternatives can mean the difference between a business being able to provide an effective drug plan for its employees or eliminating coverage altogether.

"Colorado's small and mid-sized businesses are under increasing pressure from rising health care costs. In order to recruit and retain the best employees, they must provide competitive benefits; but to do so can be a huge financial burden on a company," said Joe San Filippo of Nationwide. "The Nationwide Select drug plan will now make it possible for these businesses to provide safe, affordable medications for all their employees."

Features of Nationwide Select include: - An insured product that is up to 50% lower in cost than traditional plans - Low $10 generic co-payment for up to a 90-day supply through Medco's mail-service pharmacies -- coverage includes nearly 2,000 generic drugs - Coverage for brand and specialty drugs at discounted rates - Medco pharmacists available to members 24/7 - Plan available to employees and their families - Expansive retail network

Small Businesses' Health Care Costs Soar


With limited negotiating power, small businesses often endure a disproportionate financial burden when it comes to the provision of health care benefits for their employees and dependents. As a result of the high costs, some small firms elect to provide no coverage at all. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 59 percent of small firms offered health benefits to their employees in 2005. This compares with 98 percent of large firms providing health benefits for the same time period. Colorado small businesses, in particular, are hard hit by health care costs. With 534,000 small businesses in the state, more than 69 percent of firms stated that the main reason they don't offer health benefits is because of cost.

Matching the Product with the Want and Need

Not only do employees want a health care plan, the majority of them want it even more than a raise. According to the 2005 Medco Monitor(TM), a yearly survey of over 1,000 individuals on health care trends, 58 percent of respondents starting a new job indicated that the most important benefit is participation in a health care plan. This far outpaced the second choice -- a $5,000 raise -- which only 14 percent selected.

"Employees have spoken, and health benefits are unequivocally at the top of their priority list," said John Driscoll, group president, insured markets, Medco. "By capitalizing on the inherent savings of generics -- and layering in cost-effective mail-order delivery -- Nationwide Select opens the door to employers not only to provide a coveted benefit, but also to take the necessary steps to ensure a healthy and productive workforce."

Taking Advantage of Generics

Prescription drug costs continue to escalate, with spending increasing from $40.3 billion in 2000 to $188.5 billion in 2004. However, taking advantage of widely available generics, which are required by the FDA to be equal in safety, quality, strength and dosage to their branded counterparts, is key to controlling costs.

Between 2005 and 2006, several generic blockbusters have come to market, including those for Allegra, Zithromax, Zocor and Zoloft. Beginning in 2007, major drugs such as Ambien, Zyrtec, Paxil and Fosamax are also expected to come off patent and open the way for generic substitutions.

According to Medco Health Solutions, drugs with total U.S. sales of $30-40 billion could lose patent protection between 2006 and 2008.

Businesses interested in learning more about Nationwide Select may visit http://www.nationwide.com/health or call 866-516-9222.

Copyright (2006) PR Newswire. All Rights Reserved

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