States Take Actions Related to Medicare Drug Benefit
The state will continue paying the cost of providing drugs to dual eligibles under the new Medicare drug benefit through March 17, despite "lacking assurances from the federal government" that the costs will be reimbursed, state officials announced on Tuesday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (Bleed, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 2/15).
The federal government has said it will provide reimbursements to states for emergency coverage for dual eligibles through Feb. 15 (American Health Line, 2/10).
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt has said he will "entertain" requests for extensions of the Feb. 15 deadline, according to Roy Jeffus, director of Arkansas' Medicaid program. Noting that California already has received an extension, the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services has asked for federal approval of a waiver to continue receiving federal reimbursements for its program.
State HHS spokesperson Julie Munsell said she expects the federal government to approve Arkansas' request but added that the state will have to "absorb the costs" if permission is not granted. The state so far has spent more than $4.8 million to provide drugs to 21,000 dual eligibles, but the number of requests from pharmacies for reimbursement is declining (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 2/15).
Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) on Tuesday said he expects HHS to grant the state a waiver to allow Minnesota to continue to reimburse pharmacists for costs related to dual eligibles under the Medicare prescription drug program "with the expectation of reimbursement from federal coffers," the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (Stassen-Berger, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2/15).
On Jan. 14, Pawlenty issued a five-day emergency order that said the state would cover the cost of medications for beneficiaries eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid who experience problems with access under the prescription drug benefit. His executive council later extended the emergency order by 30 days. An additional extension requires action by the state Legislature (American Health Line, 2/14).
However, the Legislature is in recess until March 1, and the emergency program expires at midnight on Friday. The state has asked the federal government to reimburse it for costs incurred after Feb. 15, and Pawlenty said he feels assured the waiver will be granted this week (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2/15).