Louisiana: Bill Would Waive Prescription Limits
March 31, 2003
Under a bill to be introduced in Louisiana's legislature, whose first session begins Monday, the state's indigent patients with HIV, AIDS or hepatitis C would face no limits on the number of tests or prescriptions they receive through Medicaid. Sponsored by Rep. Yvonne Welch (D-Baton Rouge), House Bill 957 comes less than a month after the Department of Health and Hospitals imposed new limits on prescription drugs under Medicaid in an effort to meet a cost-cutting order from Gov. Mike Foster.Adapted from:
Since March 1, Medicaid recipients have been limited to eight prescriptions per month unless a doctor overrides that number. Officials estimate the move will save the state $12.5 million by the start of the fiscal year that begins July 1. Welch's bill would forbid such limits for diagnostic tests or prescription drugs for people with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C or terminal kidney disease. "It's to make sure that people aren't denied coverage," said Welch.
A legislative task force on the state's working uninsured recently recommended a three-year moratorium on new benefit mandates, as a means of reducing the cost of insurance and covering more people. DHH Secretary David Hood said Welch's bill is not needed because the eight-prescription limit can be waived with a doctor's order.
But Dr. David Mushatt, an investigator in the Louisiana Community AIDS Research Program, said a law guaranteeing benefits for AIDS patients on Medicaid would mean less paperwork for him and his staff. "If nothing else, it alleviates anxiety for the patients and cuts down on the kind of foolish communications that's necessary back and forth to get these waivers," he said.
Hood said Louisiana expects to spend $650 million this year on prescription drugs, and an estimated $1.1 billion by 2006. DHH spokesperson Bob Johannessen said the state spent about $11.7 million on drugs for AIDS patients in fiscal 2002.
Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
03.29.03; Jan Moller