Bush Administration to Appeal Injunction Preventing Implementation of Drug Discount Card
The Bush administration will appeal a court decision issued earlier this month blocking the implementation of its pharmacy discount card program for Medicare beneficiaries, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services Administrator Thomas Scully said yesterday. "We are determined to get a prescription drug benefit to seniors. We should be actively looking at anything that works," Scully said (McQueen, AP/Nando Times, 9/19). Under the discount card plan, the federal government would approve discount cards issued by pharmacy benefit managers, which would use the purchasing power of Medicare beneficiaries to negotiate with pharmacies and drug makers to reach discounts of between 15% to 25% off of drugs' retail prices (California Healthline, 7/16). On Sept. 6, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman issued an injunction against the program in response to a lawsuit brought by pharmacist groups alleging that the administration lacks the authority to implement the plan without congressional approval and violated federal rules by drafting the plan without open meetings or a public comment period. Friedman said pharmacy groups have a "substantial likelihood" of winning their case (California Healthline, 9/7).
Speaking to the National Health Council, a business and consumer group, Scully said, "This card ... ought to get done this year. Seniors and the uninsured are the only ones paying full price for drugs" (Hallam, Bloomberg, 9/19). He added that he was "confident" that Congress will consider legislation to back the program, which he called an "important first step in Medicare reform" (AP/Nando Times, 9/19). After the injunction was issued, Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said he would introduce a bill to grant the administration the authority to implement the discount program, but he has not yet done so (Bloomberg, 9/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.