Schwarzenegger Discusses Plans for Prescription Drug Card for Low-Income Residents in State of the State Address
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in his State of the State speech on Wednesday announced a plan to create a prescription drug discount card that would be made "available to nearly five million low-income Californians, at prices competitive with those from Canada," the Los Angeles Times reports (Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 1/6). He added that the card would be issued "with minimal costs to the state" (Marimow/Folmar, Contra Costa Times, 1/6).
Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshe on Thursday is expected to announce the details of an agreement between pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists to reduce medication prices by 40% for low-income state residents (Los Angeles Times, 1/6).
The California Rx program, which the administration proposed in August, would provide prescription drug discounts for state residents with annual incomes that do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level. The program would provide cards that participants could present to pharmacists, who would seek the lowest prices for medications through state or pharmaceutical company programs.
The Schwarzenegger administration proposed the program in response to its opposition to a series of bills that would have made it easier to purchase prescription drugs from Canada (California Healthline, 1/5).
Democrats who proposed their own plans to reduce the cost of prescription drugs similar to the ones Schwarzenegger vetoed last year said the governor's plan is inadequate (Geissinger, Oakland Tribune, 1/6).
Assembly Democrats this week released eight bills addressing prescription drug costs. Democrats said the bills would save the state money on prescription drug purchases for prison inmates; help residents find low-cost medications in other countries; provide drug discounts for low-income residents; and require pharmaceutical companies to disclose drug safety information to the state (California Healthline, 1/5).
Assembly Speaker Dario Frommer (D-Glendale) said, "The governor's plan is a low-carb version of what Democrats have put forward. It's a voluntary program, it doesn't say any way they're going to force drug companies to discount the prices" (Drucker/Sheppard, Los Angeles Daily News, 1/6).
A coalition of seniors, labor and consumer groups criticized Schwarzenegger for relying on pharmaceutical companies to provide "voluntary" discounts. In a statement, the coalition stated that the governor's proposal has no "hammer and no enforcement mechanisms to guarantee consumer savings" and that it "provides more hype than relief."
According to the Los Angeles Times, Schwarzenegger's budget proposal, which will be announced Monday, "threaten[s] to curb money for health, welfare and social programs especially important to Democratic constituencies."
Under Schwarzenegger's proposal to reform the state budget process, the governor could call a special session of the Legislature if a budget is not approved by the state constitutional deadline in June. The Legislature would have 30 days to address the budget, after which time the state controller would "implement an immediate across-the-board reduction in all state payments," according to briefing material released by Schwarzenegger's office (Los Angeles Times, 1/6).
Headlines and links to other general coverage of the State of the State speech appear below.
- "Governor Calls for 'Bold New Era'" (Delsohn, Sacramento Bee, 1/6).
- "Governor Seeks 'New Era of Reform'" (Marelius, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/6).
- "Governor Takes Combative Tone With Lawmakers" (Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6).
- "'05 Agenda May Make or Break Gov.'s Career" (Salladay, Los Angeles Times, 1/6).
- "Analysis: Schwarzenegger Looks Past Lawmakers" (Chance, Sacramento Bee, 1/6).
- "Governor's Gloves May Be Off in Dealing With State Democrats" (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/6).
- "A Bold Move in Tackling Risky Political Issues" (Gledhill/Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6).
- "Political Muscle Faces New Test" (Argetsinger, Washington Post, 1/6).