Lawmakers Introduce Pharmacy Discount Card Bill for Medicare Beneficiaries
Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would provide discounts on prescription drugs and limit out-of-pocket pharmaceutical costs for seniors, the Lincoln Journal-Star reports (Seelmeyer, Lincoln Journal-Star, 7/26). The bill would offer Medicare beneficiaries pharmacy discount cards through a plan "largely similar" to the program that President Bush proposed earlier this month. Under the legislation, pharmacy benefits managers would negotiate discounts with drug manufacturers and pharmacies, allowing seniors to purchase pharmaceuticals at a 25% to 40% discount (Tetreault, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/26). Medicare beneficiaries would pay a $25 annual fee but no monthly premiums to enroll in the pharmacy discount card program, and seniors with annual incomes less than 200% of the federal poverty level -- $8,590 for individuals and $11,610 for couples -- would pay no annual fee (Lincoln Journal-Star, 7/26). In addition, the bill would offer catastrophic drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries with incomes less than 200% of the federal poverty level who spend more than $1,200 per year on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs. The legislation would provide similar coverage for seniors with incomes between 200% and 400% of the federal poverty level who spend more than $2,500 per year. According to the Health Insurance Association of America, the bill would cost $45 billion over five years. "The bill is going to provide relief for those seniors who are having to choose between groceries and rent and life-enhancing prescription drugs they need," Ensign said (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/26).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.