Adults receiving prescription coverage under Washington state’s Medicaid program could lose that benefit if lawmakers do not find a way to trim the state’s budget shortfall when they reconvene later this month.


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Medicaid cuts weighed by Washington state

January 3rd, 2011

SEATTLE – Adults receiving prescription coverage under Washington state’s Medicaid program could lose that benefit if lawmakers do not find a way to trim the state’s budget shortfall when they reconvene later this month.

Facing a $1.1 billion deficit, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and members of the Legislature have been unable to agree on a way to narrow the gap.

Among the many programs that have been mentioned as candidates for cutting is Medicaid’s adult drug program, which provides medication to 500,000 patients. Eliminating the program could save Washington $40 million a year.

A coalition that includes the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the Washington State Pharmacists Association, the Washington Food Association and the Washington Retail Association has lobbied lawmakers to keep the program intact, saying that eliminating it would severely jeopardize patient health and lead to unforeseen expenses in other parts of the public health care system.

“Over the past several years the states have really wrestled with their budgets and we sympathize with this,” NACDS senior vice president of government affairs and public policy Carol Kelly says. “But it is important that they don’t look to eliminate essential programs as a way to balance their budgets. Healthy pharmacy is a critical part of ensuring that you have a healthy patient.”

Kelly says the coalition’s message may be getting through. A special session of the Legislature last month proposed cutting nearly $500 million in spending and the adult prescription plan was not part of the discussion.

In the meantime, the coalition has three alternatives they say could save the state much more than the $40 million annual cost of the program.

Adding a medication therapy management component to the program could save $8 million a year, Kelly says. Increasing generic drug substitutions by just 3.4% could provide another $28 million in savings, and getting about 20% of the physicians in the state to switch to electronic prescribing would trim $25 million from the cost of the program.

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