Prescription Drug Program for Uninsured and Underinsured Hawaii Residents Begins
Hawaii Rx Plus, a state program to provide discount prescription drugs to uninsured or underinsured state residents, began Thursday, the Honolulu Advertiser reports (Arakawa, Honolulu Advertiser, 7/1). The program is open to residents who do not qualify for Medicaid, have annual incomes that do not exceed 350% of the federal poverty level and have exhausted their private prescription drug benefits or have no drug benefit. State officials estimate that 300,000 Hawaii residents will qualify for the program (Daranciang, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/1). Program participants will receive a Hawaii Rx Plus card that they can use at participating pharmacies to receive Medicaid prices on drugs (Honolulu Advertiser, 7/1). Lillian Koller, director of the state Department of Human Services, said that the cards should reduce beneficiaries' prescription drug costs by 10% to 15% in the first year of the program. Currently, 88 of the state's 161 pharmacies have agreed to participate in the program, the Star-Bulletin reports. Koller said that state officials began enrolling pharmacies this week, and she expects at least 145 to participate (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/1).
In the second phase of the program, which begins in July 2005, the state will use the number of participants in Hawaii Rx Plus to negotiate further rebates with pharmaceutical companies. Lawmakers and advocates estimate that rebates will give program participants additional savings of 15% to 60%, according to the Advertiser (Honolulu Advertiser, 7/1). "Getting that card is what is going to help everybody in the program get better discounts," Koller said (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/1).