Policy Update

Drug Discount Bill Enacted in California

The California State Assembly recently approved a bill (AB 2911) that requires pharmaceutical companies to provide prescription drug discounts to uninsured Californians. The discounts would be up to 40 percent for name-brand medications and 60 percent for generic drugs. Those eligible for the prescription drug discounts are uninsured families earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

Pharmaceutical companies who refuse to provide the required discounts within three years risk having their medications removed from the Medi-Cal (the state's Medicaid program) formulary (list of approved drugs). Currently, the state of California purchases about $2 billion worth of prescription drugs a year for Medi-Cal beneficiaries. The rationale behind this enforcement strategy is that no company will be able to resist such a large market, despite any mandated markdown. While the bill was supported by Governor Schwarzenegger and many legislators, there were some who opposed the bill, including some advocates for low-income people, on the grounds that it could prevent Medi-Cal beneficiaries from obtaining needed medication. Read More

Federal Government Promotes Long-term Care Awareness for Consumers

The first part of a national clearinghouse for consumers and their caregivers looking for tools and information to help them plan ahead for long-term care is now online. The clearinghouse, which was mandated by the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA), consists of two components: a National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information website, which will be available in late September, and a Long-Term Care Awareness Campaign, "Own Your Own Future," which is currently available online. The clearinghouse and campaign are a collaboration of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Administration on Aging (AoA), and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) and the states. Read More

Analyzing the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit in California

It's been nine months since the rollout of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit program. The program has been the subject of a lot of controversy throughout the political spectrum. Since it began, an estimated 39 million beneficiaries have signed up for some kind of prescription drug coverage, but is the program successful? Efficient? Just? And how well is it working for Californians?

The California Healthcare Foundation has released a report that attempts to begin answering these questions. Among its highlights:

  • About 83 percent of California's 4.2 million Medicare beneficiaries have drug coverage, including 2.8 million with Medicare Part D coverage.
  • Approximately 700,000 beneficiaries appear to have no source of drug coverage and are believed to be disproportionately low-income.
  • Low-income Medicare beneficiaries also covered by Medi-Cal face much higher cost sharing under Medicare than they did under Medi-Cal.

The full report is available for download at the California Healthcare Foundation website (www.chcf.org). Read More

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