States Grapple With Making Prescription Drugs Accessible
Providing prescription drugs for those with limited means is an issue that states are responding to in different ways, legislators were told recently.
Diverse solutions among 29 states include subsidies in 23 of them, as well as discounts, bulk purchasing, and a price control pilot program.
In the 23 states that now provide subsidies to residents, there are often requirements for participation, a panelist explained to state legislators at the summer meeting of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, Albany, N.Y.
Requirements for participation in the programs often include income eligibility guidelines, attendees were told. In 13 states, participants need to be at least 65, said Richard Cauchi, programs manager-health with the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, and nine states offer coverage to those with adult disabilities.
Ten states offer discounts for prescription drugs, he added.
Cauchi noted that there is a lot of experimentation underway in program design.
It is a sound goal to make prescription drugs more attainable, he said, but “legislators do have to keep a tricky balance between fiscal cost to the state and [benefits offered].”
People interviewed by National Underwriter echoed the view of the Health Insurance Association of America in Washington–that providing prescription drugs to those who need them is a national issue that federal lawmakers will have to address.
Maryland is one state that is experimenting with ways to make prescription drugs accessible to its residents.
A new program was officially rolled out this month and has already filled 12,500 of a total of 30,000 available spots, according to John Folkemer, acting deputy secretary of Health Care Financing with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore.
It replaces the Rural RX program that was enacted by Maryland’s General Assembly in 2000. That program offered prescription drug coverage to seniors and disabled citizens who had lost coverage when Medicare HMOs pulled out of the state, Folkemer explains.