Bush to Offer New, ‘More Detailed’ Rx Discount Card Plan
President Bush will propose a new, "more detailed" pharmacy discount card plan for Medicare beneficiaries within the next two weeks, several months after a federal judge ruled that the Bush administration "lacked the authority" to implement a similar program proposed in July, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 11/25). Under the plan, pharmacy benefit managers would have negotiated discounts with drug manufacturers and pharmacies and sold cards to Medicare beneficiaries for up to $25, allowing them to purchase pharmaceuticals at a 15% to 20% discount (California Healthline, 7/13). The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association filed suit in July to block implementation of the plan, arguing that the Bush administration lacked the authority to implement the plan without congressional approval and that it had violated federal rules by drafting the plan without open meetings or a public comment period (California Healthline, 7/18). On Sept. 6, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman issued a temporary injunction against the plan, ruling that the White House may have lacked the authority to establish the program without congressional approval or a public comment period (California Healthline, 9/7). He lifted the injunction this month but also issued an "unusual clarifying memo," which said that he lifted the injunction to allow CMS to "revise" the plan (California Healthline, 11/20). HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson told Friedman last week that the administration would "effectively withdraw" the plan proposed in July and would offer a new program. The plan "will be similar" to the July proposal but will have "a little more structure to it and is much more detailed," CMS Administrator Thomas Scully said. According to Scully, the administration will open the plan to public comment "as the judge demanded" and will "provide a clearer explanation of its legal authority." He predicted that Friedman would approve the new plan (New York Times, 11/25).