A free discount prescription card offered by Pima County has had a low usage rate, even though it allows an average 68 percent in savings.

As a result, county officials are trying to spread the word about the Coast2Coast Rx card, which is an anonymous discount card that is accepted in chain drugstores and most independent ones. It's also accepted by some dental offices, veterinarians and several chain vision stores for discounts on services and supplies such as prescription glasses and contact lenses.

The Coast2Coast Rx discount card is mainly for people without health insurance. Pharmacies and other participants in the program take either a health insurance card or the discount card, but not both.

Coast2Coast Rx already has agreements with more than 300 government entities in the United States.

The card uses no tax dollars. Rather, it will bring in a small amount of revenue to county coffers each time a card is used. The city of Phoenix has issued the same card since 2010, and officials there say the results have been positive and that more than 200,000 prescriptions have been filled.

Pima County began offering the card in August but usage has been low - about 200 to 300 prescriptions filled per month, county officials say. There have been no complaints since the county started the program. Officials say they think many more people could benefit from the card, but they likely don't know about it.

Pima County Supervisors Sharon Bronson and Richard Elías held a news conference Tuesday to try to get the word out about the local card, which is available online as well as at pharmacies, libraries and public health facilities.

The card does not ask for the user's name, residency status or any information other than 10-digit phone number or other identification number of the user's choosing. It does not expire.

For those without insurance, the card can mean the difference between filling a prescription and not being able to afford medication, county officials say. But for people with insurance, it could be helpful in paying for medications their insurance doesn't cover. It could also result in savings for insured people if the co-payment of their medication is higher than the prescription under the card. In some instances, the card will be useful for people in the Medicare Part D prescription drug doughnut hole.

Phoenix was the first jurisdiction in Arizona to offer the card, and Chandler, Glendale and Gilbert have since signed on.

A Coast2Coast Rx representative on Tuesday said the company earns its money by partnering with pharmacies and other businesses to bring in a larger customer base. Through the card issued by Florida-based Financial Marketing Concepts, the company shares the fees it collects from pharmacies and other businesses with governments - $1.25 per prescription, Chief Marketing Officer Martin Dettelbach said.

The city of Phoenix began offering the card to its residents in 2010, and the program has generated $167,000 for the city and offered its residents millions of dollars in discounts on medications, Phoenix officials said.

"There has been not one complaint that I'm aware of," Phoenix Vice Mayor Bill Gates said. "There's a need in the community, and this is really helping."

Numerous community partners in Phoenix distribute the cards, including the Valley of the Sun United Way, the Cesar Chavez Foundation and Maricopa Community Colleges.

Gates said the program has been particularly helpful to the people who were recently frozen out of Arizona's Medicaid program, an insurance plan for very low-income people that had to reduce its rolls because of state budget cuts.

About the card

Information about Coast2Coast Rx discount drug card: 1-800-931-8872 or www.coast2coastrx.com

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at sinnes@azstarnet.com or 573-4134. Twitter: @stephanieinnes