Pharmacy Group, PBM To Seek Approval for Medicare Discount Cards
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts have announced that they will seek government approval to offer a prescription drug discount card under Medicare, the AP/New York Times reports (AP/New York Times, 1/16). The new Medicare law (HR 1) calls for the discount cards to be available to beneficiaries this spring as a temporary measure until the full Medicare prescription drug benefits begin in 2006. The cards will cost about $30 per year and will provide discounts of 10% to 25% on prescription drug prices. Different companies and groups will be permitted to offer the cards and their cost and discounts will vary (California Healthline, 12/15/03). Barrett Toan, chief executive of Express Scripts, said the details of the company's discount card program have not yet been finalized, but he added that the card's discounts would be "meaningful." If endorsed by the Bush administration, the group's card would be offered as soon as June and would allow members a choice of 90-day drug supplies from a mail order or retail pharmacy service. NACDS -- the first group to announce plans to participate in the discount card program -- in 2001 filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration alleging that a different drug discount program it had proposed would be illegal, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Sherman, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 1/15). The administration in 2001 proposed a program that would have allowed seniors to pay up to $25 for one of several drug discount cards offered by private organizations and endorsed by Medicare to receive savings of 10% to 13% on prescriptions. A U.S. District Judge in January 2003 ruled that the administration had no legal authority to create a Medicare-sponsored discount drug card program (California Healthline, 1/30/03). NACDS President Craig Fuller said the discount program under the new Medicare law "differs significantly from what Bush proposed in 2001," according to the AP/Sun. Toan said the discount cards would help Express Scripts "stake a claim" in managing the new Medicare drug benefit when it takes effect, the AP/Sun reports (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 1/15).
The Campaign for America's Future on Thursday unveiled two new television advertisements that criticize President Bush's support of the Medicare drug law, CongressDaily reports. One 30-second ad -- to be aired on CNN and elsewhere from Saturday until Bush's Jan. 20 State of the Union address -- features a simulation of the speech. A voiceover says, "My Medicare bill has real drug benefits. But not for you -- for my contributors at the big drug companies. My bill actually forbids Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices ... so you'll probably have to pay more for your prescriptions than you do now." A second ad set to air in Florida, Nevada, Ohio and West Virginia states that Bush "sided with drug companies," CongressDaily reports. Both ads are sponsored by the MoveOn.org Voter Fund. Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, said, "[F]or the rest of the year, large organizations are going to work together to make Medicare an issue in the campaign" (Posner, CongressDaily, 1/15).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.