Los Angeles City Council Approves Creation of Prescription Discount Plan
The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday voted 14-0 to create a prescription drug discount program for residents, a move that could make Los Angeles the first city in the United States to offer such a plan, the Los Angeles Times reports. Council member and mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa (D) sponsored the ordinance (Hymon, Los Angeles Times, 5/5).
Under the "LARx" plan, Los Angeles would contract with a pharmacy benefits manager to negotiate drug discounts of as much as 40%, the AP/Fresno Bee reports. Villaraigosa said the city-issued prescription drug benefit card could be available for $25 per year (AP/Fresno Bee, 5/5).
According to the Times, the "only expected cost to the city" would be for one or two employees to administer the program.
The card would be available to all city residents, but the uninsured and those without adequate prescription drug coverage would be the "primary beneficiaries," the Times reports.
The city council vote created the program, but a separate council vote is needed before the program can be implemented.
The plan is based on county programs in other states. For example, under a program in Nassau County, New York, drug discount cards were sent to households of all registered voters. The cards were available at no cost to county residents.
Howard Weitzman, comptroller for Nassau County, said the program helped county residents save about $1.1 million during its first four months. Weitzman said that pharmacies initially opposed the program but became more receptive to it when prescription drug sales increased.
"I think the fact that it had nearly unanimous support today indicates that this is an idea whose time has come," Villaraigosa said.
Jerry Flanagan, of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said, "We think this is the front lines of prescription drug reform" (Los Angeles Times, 5/5).
KPCC's "AirTalk" on Tuesday included a discussion of the prescription drug purchasing pool measure. Guests on the program included Flanagan; Tom Rice, professor of health services at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Public Health; and Weitzman (Mantle, "AirTalk," KPCC, 5/3). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.