Federal Law Allows Some Medicaid Beneficiaries To Receive No-Cost Medications

Armen Hareyan's picture
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If Rhode Island moves forward with a plan to impose prescription drug copayments on some Medicaid beneficiaries, the state should promote a federal law that provides no-cost prescription drugs for Medicaid beneficiaries who cannot afford copays, according to advocates for the elderly, low-income and people with disabilities, the Providence Journal reports (Gudrais, Providence Journal, 8/21).

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The state Department of Human Services in July 2006 issued regulations requiring some Medicaid beneficiaries to contribute copays of $1 for generic prescription drugs and $3 for brand-name drugs. The copays would affect about 14,000 Medicaid beneficiaries, mostly adults with disabilities, as well as some children with special needs (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 9/25/06). The copays, which are intended to save the state $1.3 million this fiscal year, were not implemented last year because of a court ruling that required additional legislation to make the change, but the state plans to impose the copays in October.

Advocates are concerned that the lowest-income beneficiaries will not be able to afford the copays and said the state should rewrite the draft regulations to include information about the federal law. If the exception is not included in the regulations, advocates are "worried that people won't know about it," according to Jessica Buhler, director of the Senior Agenda Coalition of Rhode Island. John Young, associate director of the state Department of Human Services, said the state purposely refrained from publicizing the federal law because the agency will not compensate pharmacies for lost revenue from beneficiaries who cannot afford the copays.

Advocates also are calling for a hearing on the new regulations, and DHS Secretary Jane Hayward said the state will consent to that request (Gudrais, Providence Journal, 8/21).

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