Livingston residents are welcome to partake in the "Essex County Wellness Discount Program," according to Anthony Puglisi, the Essex County liason, who presented the program at last week's Township Council meeting during his routine update of county initiatives.

The discount program, which is offered to all Essex County residents free-of charge (no age or income restrictions), offers savings for a wide range of medical needs: prescription drugs; vision exams, eyeglasses, contact lenses and Lasik eye surgery, hearing exams and hearing aids, dental care and the ProSmile teeth whitening system, diabetic supplies and even pet medications.

The program, however, is not a substitute for insurance.

Among the program's benefits is the Prescription Drug Card, which offers discounts ranging from 10-75 percent on prescription drugs purchased at local pharmacies and national chain stores such as CVS, WAL-MART, Safeway, K-Mart Pharmacy, Walgreens, Kroger, Target, Stop & Shop, and many others. Although the discount card will be most beneficial to uninsured residents, who have to pay out-of-pocket for mediations, it can be very helpful to insured individuals who do not have prescription coverage and also help them achieve discounts for specific medications that are not covered by their insurance providers. It can also be used as a Medicare Part D supplement for those drugs not covered by Medicare.

here's also an eye care component to the program that offers either fixed-dollar or percentage discounts (usually 30 percent) off retail prices for both eye examinations and corrective materials; additionally, there are dental and hearing benefits, too.

Bergen County offers a similar program and the "Essex County Wellness Discount Program" is a shared service initiative between the County of Essex and the County of Bergen and operated under the umbrella of United Networks of America, Inc., a networking company that is one of the largest providers of value-added managed care products and services in the nation with more than 240,000 participating providers serving more than 72.4 million members.

In June, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. co-hosted a presentation with Essex County Freeholders to announce the program. Officials reiterated that although the program is not an insurance policy, it's an easy-to-use discount program available to any Essex County resident.

The "Essex County Wellness Discount Program" brochure contains websites and toll-free numbers pertaining to each of the benefits. To participate, tndividuals need to cut the discount card out of the brochure and present it to participating vendors. To access the card and for more detailed information, click here.