Lawmakers Consider Preferred Drug List

Lawmakers Consider Preferred Drug List

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Richard Piatt reportingThe high cost of filling prescriptions on the taxpayers dime: It's an issue Medicaid and Medicare patients are paying attention to. And so is both the federal and state government.

Here's an example of how expensive it's gotten: Since 1997, the Medicaid drug costs alone have gone up 270 percent in Utah. That has some people looking for relief. But is a preferred drug list the answer?

In Utah, not only has the cost of prescriptions gone through the roof. The number of people eligible for Medicaid has, too. It's up 79 percent in the last ten years, and growing.

To help solve the problem, Representative Steve Mascaro is pushing the idea of a preferred drug list, that is, finding lower-cost alternatives under most circumstances.

Rep. Steve Mascaro/ (R) West Jordan: "It saves the state money. It saves the state millions of dollars and still provides Medicaid services. And so to not have the full body of the legislature discuss this issue is totally inappropriate."

The Utah health department has the power to institute a preferred drug list right now. But politically, the idea is not popular.

Leaders in both the House and Senate are not supportive, even though Representative Mascaro changed a Preferred Drug List bill to a resolution.

The problem: Too may unanswered questions.

Rep. Jeff Alexander/ House Majority Leader: "We didn't think they knew themselves if it would be profitable or not. We weren't sure if the administrative costs were too high. We weren't sure if the savings included federal money or state money."

In fact, Legislative leaders are willing to wait to see how a new federal initiative will affect the state's programs.

Part of the Medicare Part D program is to provide prescription coverage for Medicare patients--the elderly--who don't have them now.

In fact, Health and Human Services Secretary MiKe Leavitt is touring the nation, encouraging seniors to sign up.

No one knows if that new federal program will relieve the financial pressure at a time when budget cuts are coming in other human service areas.

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