Bush Rx Discount Plan Can Move Forward, Judge Rules
The Bush administration can "move forward" with its plan to offer prescription discount cards to Medicare beneficiaries after U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman yesterday lifted an injunction that prevented the start of the program, the AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports (AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11/7). 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, Friedman issued his previous 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 (California Healthline, 9/7). CMS Administrator Tom Scully said he was "pleased" with the new ruling, adding, "We believe a drug discount plan is a first step to provide needed help to seniors -- but not a substitute for a [Medicare] drug benefit." CMS has received 28 applications from pharmacy benefit managers for the program and can continue with the process now that the injunction has been lifted. Following yesterday's ruling, National Association of Chain Drug Stores President Craig Fuller said, "NACDS does not believe a myriad of discount cards are the right answer to the lack of prescription drug coverage for many of America's seniors." Scully said that CMS will continue working with Congress to add a more comprehensive drug benefit to Medicare (AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11/7).