Bush Promotes Medicare Rx Discount Card Plan
President Bush on Friday promoted his prescription drug discount plan for seniors, introduced last week, while speaking to 200 health care providers at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the Los Angeles Times reports. Bush also said that he is "not afraid" to tackle Medicare reform, "vow[ing]" to add prescription drug coverage to the program (Chen, Los Angeles Times, 7/15). Under the discount card plan, which does not require congressional approval, 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. Participating PBMs would also "steer" seniors to specific drugstores, create preferred drug lists, fill prescriptions by mail and operate telephone call centers to answer consumers' questions. Seniors would pay no more than $25 to participate in the plan and would be able to select the discount plan that best suits their needs. Seniors would be able to switch plans up to two times per year. Medicare beneficiaries would be permitted to enroll in one of the discount drug plans on or after Nov. 1 and discounts would begin Jan. 1, 2002. Democrats have criticized the plan, saying it does "too little" for seniors. The nation's retail pharmacies have said that the discount plan could lead to "lower profits" and might put some pharmacies out of business (Gallagher, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 7/15).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.