Schwarzenegger Requests Extended Reimbursement Period
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Friday requested that the federal government extend state reimbursement for the cost of providing emergency prescription drug coverage at least through April 16. Schwarzenegger on Friday also extended to April 16 emergency coverage for residents dually eligible for Medicare and Medi-Cal who are experiencing difficulty obtaining medications under the Medicare drug benefit.
In a letter to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, Schwarzenegger wrote that he is "deeply concerned" that on April 1 several changes will take place in Medicare Part D "that may result in significant access problems to needed medications" for dual eligibles.
"The normal problems that occur on the first of the month would be combined with problems caused by the end of the transition period, the shifting of people out of multiple plans and the end of the Medi-Cal 100-day drug supply," Schwarzenegger wrote. He also requested "data from CMS that proves the systemic problems in the program have been reduced to a level where CMS staff and the Medicare plans have the phone and staff capabilities to quickly resolve any remaining problems" (Office of the Governor release, 3/17).
In related news, several newspapers recently published articles examining the political action related to the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Summaries appear below.
CongressDaily: Congressional leaders from both parties urged their colleagues to "focus almost solely" on the drug benefit and the enrollment deadline while visiting their districts over the weekend, CongressDaily reports. House Republican Conference Chair Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) wrote to conference members to push them to "spend time ... educating seniors and their families" about the benefit, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) provided Democrats with packets containing talking points, fact sheets and prepared presentations of the program (Davis, CongressDaily, 3/17).
CQ HealthBeat: Congressional Democrats in the coming weeks likely will "keep up a drumbeat of demands ... for an extension of the May 15 deadline for enrollment" in the Medicare prescription drug benefit, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 3/17). The Senate on Wednesday voted 76-22 to approve a fiscal year 2007 budget resolution amendment, sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), that would authorize -- but not require -- HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to extend the deadline. President Bush opposes an extension (California Healthline, 3/16).
CQ Today: Approval of the Grassley amendment "signaled that Republicans in Congress are uneasy" with the drug benefit's "shaky beginning" and "more willing than the Bush administration to entertain changes," CQ Today reports (Schuler, CQ Today, 3/17).
- Roll Call: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has unveiled an effort that will focus on the drug benefit in election campaigns for several "key 2006 House contests," Roll Call reports. The effort will focus on seats currently held by Pryce and Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) and Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) (Jacobson, Roll Call, 3/20).
Long Island Newsday on Saturday published three features examining issues related to Medicare. Headlines for the articles appear below.
- "Need Brand-name Drug? Generic May Come First" (Kerr, Long Island Newsday, 3/18).
- "Retiree Drug Coverage Far From a Sure Bet" (Luhby, Long Island Newsday, 3/18).
- "Rx for Gen X: Plan and Save -- Now" (Wagner, Long Island Newsday, 3/18).