Medicaid Drug Coverage May Suffer Under New Medicare Law

Many poor elderly who receive Medicaid could actually see their prescription drug coverage reduced under the new Medicare reform bill passed last year, according to the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

"Many of the nation's elderly will benefit from the new coverage when it begins in 2006, but others, including poor seniors, will now get their drug coverage under Medicare, rather than under Medicaid as they do now," said Robert Field, J.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., director of the Health Policy Program at university. "[T]his coverage will be more restrictive than what they are used to. There will be formularies that limit what drugs they can get and possibly co-payments and deductibles."

State budgets could also be hit. Medicaid is run at the state level, and state Medicaid programs will now be required to reimburse the federal government for providing the drug benefit. Dr. Field said that this could turn out to cost them more.

"If states want their elderly Medicaid recipients to have as good a drug benefit as what they have now, they will have to pay extra," said Dr. Field. "In other words, either states will have to bear higher costs, or those on Medicaid will have more limited drug coverage. This could become a growing problem as drugs become increasingly important in health care."

The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia is a private, coeducational institution founded in 1821.

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