County board OKs drug co-pay hike

CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators’ Operations Committee on Monday was split in moving forward a resolution that would increase prescription drug co-pays for retired county employees.

Two similar resolutions were brought forward by Human Resources Department Director Jonnie Dorothy at the direction of the county’s Healthcare Committee. Both resolutions would raise the cost of prescription drug co-pays for retired county workers between $8 and $20. One of the resolutions would have implemented this change in whole on Jan. 1, 2021, while the other, which was the one approved, gradually makes those increases over a period of four years.

Several legislators took issue with the notion of raising co-pays at all, arguing doing so for older retirees on a fixed income may be detrimental.

“I know some may look at it and just, ‘See $5 here, $8 there,’ but the older population, the older American population, actually sees the highest cost associated with almost all of their prescriptions,” Legislator Nicole Terminelli, D-Massena, said. “I think it’s difficult to push out a cost to somebody that’s living on a fixed income and is not getting raises, just out of the blue. I’m just a little concerned about it.”

Other legislators thought it was appropriate to raise the co-pays in order to match those provided in the current union contract.

“My preference would actually be to put in the full amount,” Finance Committee Chairman Kevin Acres said, showing his support for both resolutions. “But as I’m getting older and getting closer to that age of 65, I’m thinking maybe I’d like a phased in myself. So, I think this is a compromise. I wish that the committee had submitted one or the other.”

Ms. Terminelli was joined by some fellow Democrats, Margaret G. Haggard, D-Potsdam; Tony Arquiette, D-Helena; Suzanne Fiacco, D-Norwood; and Republican John Burke, R-Norwood, in voting against the resolution, which ultimately passed 9-5. Legislator Rita Curran, R-Massena, left the meeting early.

The resolution must go to the full board for approval at its meeting next month. Ms. Dorothy said she must give ProAct, the county’s pharmacy benefit manager, at least a 90-day notice that the county plans to change co-pays prior to Jan. 1. She said she would do so immediately as long as legislators did not express any objections.

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