Massachusetts Cuts Copayment Assistance Program For Seniors

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More than 44,000 Massachusetts seniors must pay larger prescription drug copayments as a result of an $11 million cut to the state Prescription Advantage program, which provides copay assistance for seniors who meet an income-eligibility requirement, the Boston Globe reports. The cut, which was part of Gov. Deval Patrick's (D) $1 billion state budget reduction in October 2008, could leave many seniors paying double or triple their copays, state officials said.

As of Jan. 1, state assistance for covered drugs is not available until Medicare and the beneficiary combined have spent $2,700. Deborah Banda, state director of AARP Massachusetts, said, "The pain will go away once they reach the $2,700, but it will be a heck of a lot of pain until then," adding, "The vast majority of these people are on fixed incomes."

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Mary Sullivan, a pharmacist and director of the not-for-profit organization MassMedLine, said that many seniors are not picking up their prescriptions because they cannot afford the copays. In addition, despite a large outreach effort by advocacy groups in November and December, many seniors did not realize how they would be affected by the program cuts, according to the Globe. "They are calling us when they reach the pharmacy and realize their [prescription] plans are not what they expected," Sullivan said.

In response, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs has been sending information to seniors notifying them about the changes. In addition, the state will be conducting "over 100 statewide informational seminars about the changes, as well as briefing senior centers, pharmacists and senior counselors," according to Kristina Barry, a spokesperson for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Banda said that with more budget cuts likely, "we just feel this program has taken the biggest hit it can right now without jeopardizing the health of some of our most vulnerable residents." She added, "If people are cutting back because they can't afford these costs, they may stop taking their prescriptions, and they may end up at emergency rooms all over the state" (Lazar, Boston Globe, 1/14).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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