Senate Approves Bill To Extend Emergency Drug Coverage for Dual Eligibles
The Senate on Monday approved legislation (SB 1233) to extend for up to 90 days an emergency aid program that covers prescription drug costs for people dually eligible for Medicare and Medi-Cal benefits, the Oakland Tribune reports. The program currently is set to expire on Saturday (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 2/7).
The legislation allows the state to pay for dual eligibles' medications for an additional 30 days if they are having trouble obtaining prescriptions under the Medicare drug benefit. The bill also authorizes Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to extend the program by up to an additional 60 days to May 16 if problems with the Medicare drug benefit continue (Office of the Governor release, 2/6).
The Assembly is expected to address the bill by Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) on Friday (Lawrence, AP/Modesto Bee, 2/7).
Schwarzenegger "has indicated he will sign it," the Contra Costa Times reports.
California has paid for 245,561 prescriptions at a cost of about $18.1 million since the emergency program began Jan. 12 (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 2/7).
Summaries of actions in other states related to the Medicare drug benefit appear below.
- Florida: Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Thursday said he is considering "what the options are" for providing temporary prescription drug coverage for severely ill, low-income Medicare beneficiaries whose annual incomes exceed eligibility standards for Medicaid, the AP/Daytona Beach News-Journal reports (AP/Daytona Beach News-Journal, 2/3). Bush recently announced that the state would pay for prescription drugs for an estimated 100,000 dual eligibles who have been unable to obtain needed medications under the Medicare drug benefit (California Healthline, 1/27). Several Democratic House members representing Florida recently wrote to Bush urging him to expand the temporary aid to beneficiaries in the state's "Medically Needy" program. Under the Medically Needy program, Florida's Medicaid program pays 100% of health care costs after a certain threshold for state residents with annual incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid. Many of the program's beneficiaries' saw their prescription drug coverage switched to Medicare when the new Medicare drug benefit began. As a result, prescription drug costs are now "off the table," meaning many beneficiaries no longer meet their threshold and are now "on the hook for enormous drug costs," the AP/News-Journal reports. In their letter to Bush, the congressional Democrats wrote, "Most of these 'medically needy' individuals suffer from cancer, AIDS, renal failure or are organ transplant recipients. Due to their severely limited financial means, they are unable to pay their share of costs, putting their lives in imminent danger." Bush said he is considering the issue but added that he does not believe he can legally expand his executive order (AP/Daytona Beach News-Journal, 2/3).
- New York: The New York Assembly on Monday voted unanimously to override Gov. George Pataki's (R) veto of legislation that would have indefinitely provided "wraparound" prescription drug coverage for dual eligibles in the state, the AP/Albany Times Union reports. Under the bill, New York's wraparound program -- which provides coverage for dual eligibles for any prescription drug they cannot obtain under the new Medicare drug benefit -- would continue until problems with the Medicare benefit are resolved (Choi , AP/Albany Times Union, 2/6). Pataki in his budget in January proposed ending the program by July 1, and on Friday he vetoed the bill extending the program until state Health Commissioner Antonia Novello deemed it no longer necessary, the AP/Times Union reports. According to Pataki's Budget Division, ending the program would save about $216 million. Pataki argues that problems with the federal program should be resolved by July, so the program no longer would be necessary (Choi , AP/Albany Times Union, 2/6). Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) warned that Pataki's veto could prevent 600,000 state residents from receiving prescriptions. The state Senate will now consider the legislation and has "indicated" it will override Pataki's veto, according to the AP/Times Union (Choi , AP/Albany Times Union, 2/6).
- Washington: The state of Washington will receive a $14 million Medicare credit from the federal government because the cost of prescription drugs has decreased, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced this weekend, the AP/Spokane Spokesman-Review reports. Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) said the state will use the credit to cover copayments for 96,000 dual-eligible state residents whose prescriptions previously were paid in full by Medicaid but who now must pay copays from $1 to $5 per prescription refill. The state will begin covering the copays within two weeks and will continue the coverage only through the end of 2006 unless more funds become available, according to Gregoire (AP/Spokane Spokesman-Review, 2/6).