Pills are counted as a prescription is filled.

Californian file photo

Thousands of Kern County residents have saved millions of dollars on prescription heart disease, diabetes and mental health medications through a 10-year partnership between the United Way of Kern County and FamilyWize, according to a new data report released by the two nonprofit organizations.

More than $1.4 million of that savings happened from 2013 through 2016, benefiting 11,637 Kern residents who opted to get a free FamilyWize prescription savings card.

But the report also retells a discouraging story about the general health of residents of the Golden Empire: When it comes to key indicators of poor health such as smoking, physical inactivity, obesity and insufficient sleep, Kern County residents often experience these issues at higher rates than the state and national levels. 

"We have been working with FamilyWize for 10 years and have helped county residents save more than $5 million on prescription drugs of all kinds," said Della Hodson, president of United Way of Kern County.

Not only is the card free, there's no registration or membership required. And it's accepted at all major pharmacies.

"I tell people to think of it as a coupon that they can use over and over," Hodson said.

How does FamilyWize get savings for its cardholders? By aggregating large groups of patients, the nonprofit negotiates for deep discounts on prescription medications — often up to 40 percent — which it then passes on to patients. Its partnerships with United Way, the American Heart Association and other well-known community and heath advocacy groups gives the organization added clout.

Dan Barnes, chairman and co-founder of the Bethlehem, Pa.-based organization, said in a statement FamilyWize is "launching a new chapter of our strong partnership with United Way of Kern County.

The first step, he said, is "knowing as much as we can about the families and individuals who live there. Through this localized research we are reaching millions of Americans, all of whom are searching for ways to afford their medicine in this difficult healthcare landscape."

Using targeted data reports created by FamilyWize, local United Ways can better evaluate what assistance their communities need most, rather than trying to piece together a story using only national-level and state-level reporting.

"We help with the outreach to people who can use this card," Hodson said. "We believe this card is a great way for uninsured and underinsured people to afford medicine."

And with more than 58,000 uninsured adults in Kern County, according to the report, there huge potential for more savings.

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