Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Bill Could Save States $6.8 Billion Per Year, Study Finds
Legislation that would make Medicare responsible for most of the cost of prescription drugs for individuals eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid could save states billions of dollars per year and help many state Medicaid programs avoid reductions in benefits, according to a study released yesterday by the Commonwealth Fund, the Sacramento Bee reports (O'Rourke, Sacramento Bee, 4/8). According to the study, the enactment of a bill that would establish a Medicare prescription drug benefit for the estimated six million seniors and people with disabilities who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid could save states as much as $6.8 billion per year (Commonwealth Fund release, 4/8). The legislation also could "improve access to prescription drug coverage for low-income Medicare beneficiaries and facilitate improved coordination of care for beneficiaries who often have complex and chronic illnesses," the study said. In addition, the study found that the legislation could "provide states with resources to preserve Medicaid coverage that might otherwise have to be cut" (Berg Dale et al., "State Medicaid Prescription Drug Expenditures for Medicare-Medicaid Dual Eligibiles," Commonwealth Fund, 4/8). However, a Medicare prescription drug benefit could prove "costly" for the federal government, which faces a budget deficit that could exceed $400 billion, the Bee reports. The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) and Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), passed the House last year but did not pass in the Senate. Johnson reintroduced the legislation this year, and the House will likely approve the bill within the next two months, according to congressional aides, the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 4/8). The study is available online at http://www.cmwf.org/programs/medfutur/dale_rxdualeligibles_ib_627.pdf. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the study.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.