John Grant is a diabetic with no health insurance.

The 56-year-old driver from West Chester says insulin costs him about $160 a month, which he said was hard for him to come by these days.

Yesterday, the Chester County commissioners gave Grant and thousands like him in the county a lifeline.

Before a crowd of social-service agency leaders and others on the front lines of delivering human services, they announced a new prescription-drug discount deal that is open to all county residents, no questions asked.

"We're happy we can provide a service that's needed," Board of Commissioners Chairman Carol Aichele said. "This program will help every family in Chester County."

The free discount card comes courtesy of the National Association of Counties, which has a contract with CVS Caremark to negotiate rates and administer the program.

Cardholders can expect to receive a discount of almost 23 percent off the retail price of drugs, and if using mail order, the discount on some generics can be as high as 50 percent, officials said. Consumers are guaranteed to receive the lowest price, they said.

Commissioner Terence Farrell said he heard of the program while attending a conference of the counties association in February and decided to investigate.

"The discount-card program provides savings by passing on negotiated discount rates to individuals with little or no prescription benefit coverage," he said. "It's easy. There are no enrollment fees, forms to fill out, age or income requirements, and no medical condition restrictions."

The card will be honored by more than 100 pharmacies in the county, and one card covers the entire family, he said. It also will cover undocumented residents, officials said.

The association launched the program four years ago. Since then, consumers have saved more than $108 million on 9.6 million prescriptions, according to a September news release from the organization.

So far, 40 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties have signed on, but Chester County is the only one in the southeast region, according to the association Web site.

Cora Thompson, chief clerk in Potter County, said the discount card had been available to residents for 18 months and there had been no complaints.

"That's unusual," she said. "It's going very well."

Donald Klepser, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Nebraska, said of the cards: "What they basically do is allow the cardholder to get medications at a negotiated price. There probably will be some savings on brand medications, but is it the same as having insurance coverage? Absolutely not."

Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said that according to a 2003 survey, nearly a quarter of county residents worry about medical coverage, and 42 percent of them cited prescription coverage as a real issue.

The cards, which are also in Spanish, are available through a number of community service agencies, as well as from the county Health Department at 610-344-6225.

Contact staff writer Nancy Petersen at 610-696-4932 or