Rx Drug Discount Plan to Be Released ‘Any Day Now’
The Bush administration plans to release a new proposal for a prescription drug discount card for Medicare beneficiaries "almost any day now," according to CMS Administrator Thomas Scully, CongressDaily reports. Scully, speaking to reporters yesterday after a speech to the Academy for Health Services Research and Health Policy's National Health Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., in which he outlined the administration's health priorities, said he is "anxious" to implement a plan to help some seniors buy prescriptions while Congress debates adding a drug benefit to Medicare. Scully added that the plan "is not intended to be a substitute for a Medicare drug benefit" (Rovner, CongressDaily, 1/16). Under the discount card plan proposed by the White House last July, pharmacy benefit managers would have negotiated discounts with drug manufacturers and pharmacies and sold cards to Medicare beneficiaries for up to $25, allowing patients to purchase pharmaceuticals at a 15% to 20% discount. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association filed suit in July to block implementation of the plan, arguing that the Bush administration lacked the authority to implement the plan without congressional approval and that it had violated federal rules by drafting the plan without open meetings or a public comment period. In September, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman sided with the groups and issued a temporary injunction against the plan. Friedman lifted the injunction in November but also issued an "unusual clarifying memo," which said that he lifted the injunction to allow CMS to "revise" the plan (California Healthline, 11/26/01). The Bush administration has said that the new plan will be put "through the normal federal rulemaking process." Scully said that if Congress takes action on a Medicare drug benefit this year, it still would be a "massive undertaking" and take "considerable time" to get a program running. "If you want a drug benefit in 2005 or 2006, you're going to have to get started now," Scully said (CongressDaily, 1/16).