Legislature Passes Emergency Rx Measure; Schwarzenegger Meets with Leavitt
The Legislature on Thursday passed a bill (AB 132) to provide prescription drug coverage for residents dually eligible for Medicare and Medi-Cal who have been unable to obtain medications under the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is expected to sign the bill on Friday (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/20).
The bill would provide up to $150 million for as long as 30 days to pay for dual eligibles' medications (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 1/20). The bill would be retroactive to Jan. 12 (AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 1/20).
Under the legislation, dual eligibles could receive a 15-day supply of medications through Jan. 27. The bill would allow Schwarzenegger to extend coverage for an addition 15 days beyond that (Beeman, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 1/20).
Last week, Schwarzenegger took emergency action directing the state to cover temporarily prescription costs for dual eligibles who were unable to obtain medications through the Medicare program (Contra Costa Times, 1/20). Since emergency coverage went into effect, the state has paid for about 65,000 prescriptions at a cost of about $5 million (Benson/Weaver Teichert, Sacramento Bee, 1/20).
Schwarzenegger at a meeting on Thursday told HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt that "it is the responsibility of the federal government to fund" the Medicare drug benefit, and "California taxpayers should not be saddled with the cost of taking emergency action" (Contra Costa Times, 1/20).
Schwarzenegger added that he expects California to be "completely reimbursed for the cost of protecting our elderly and disabled residents throughout this transition" (Goldeen, Stockton Record, 1/20).
Leavitt said he would pressure private health insurance plans providing Medicare drug coverage to reimburse states for transitional drug coverage (Sacramento Bee, 1/20).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.
Several broadcast programs reported on issues related to the Medicare prescription drug benefit in California:
- KPBS' "KPBS News": The segment reports on the bipartisan group of at least five senators, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who plan to sponsor legislation that would reimburse states for covering the costs of drugs for Medicare beneficiaries who have had difficulty obtaining medications under the new Medicare drug benefit (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 1/19). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KPCC's "KPCC News": The segment reports on a bill that would provide as much as $150 million to extend prescription drug coverage for one million residents dually eligible for Medicare and Medi-Cal who are having problems obtaining medications under the Medicare drug benefit. The segment includes comments from Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), who introduced the bill, and Schwarzenegger (R) (Keith, "KPCC News," KPCC, 1/18). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "This Week in Northern California": The program on Friday is scheduled to include an interview with David Lazarus, business columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, about the benefit ("This Week in Northern California," KQED, 1/20).