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State considers 20 bills to cut prescription costs |

State considers 20 bills to cut prescription costs

| Tuesday, January 30, 2001 12:00 a.m

State legislators are proposing a slew of prescription-drug bills that would allow Medicare-eligible Pennsylvanians to purchase prescription drugs at lower prices.

One bill, known as FAIRx, would help 2 million eligible residents buy prescription drugs at the same price as the state’s PACE program. PACE allows low-income seniors to buy prescription drugs at a discount.

The bill would pool all state-related prescription drugs under one pharmacy benefits manager. That person would then presumably negotiate lower prices with pharmaceutical companies by buying in volume.

The rebates would provide enough money to expand PACE to about 77,000 middle-income seniors.

State Sen. Don White, R-Indiana/Armstrong, said the bill could save the state about $100 million.

‘I like the concept,’ White said. ‘I want to see a bill that is more inclusive for people that need the help.’

State Sen. Sean Logan, R-Monroeville/Plum, said he would support any legislation that would help seniors purchase cheaper prescription drugs, whether it be introduced by Democrats or Republicans.

‘It’s a proposal I support wholeheartedly,’ Logan said. ‘We need to look toward our seniors.’

Logan said getting the bill passed won’t be easy. ‘It’s something I think we’re going to work very hard on.’

The freshman lawmaker said he thinks a lot of Republicans may be waiting to see what the federal government does, but he said something needs to be done sooner at the state level.

Logan said the proposal doesn’t rely on tobacco settlement funds as do other proposals. The state will receive an estimated $400 million per year for the next 25 years from that settlement.

White said state legislators must be careful with new proposals because a state bill may affect future federal funds granted to the state.

Ray Landis, Harrisburg lobbyist for the Pennsylvania chapter for the American Association of Retired Persons, said he likes some aspects of the plan, but the organization hasn’t fully endorsed the plan.

Landis said he has seen plans from Democrats and Republicans in the state House that also have some good aspects, but he would like to see some aspects of all of the plans used.

State Rep. Jeff Coleman, R-Apollo, said more than 20 proposed prescription-drug plans are in committee. Coleman is endorsing the Pennsylvania Pharmaceutical Reform Act. The plan increases PACENET income eligibility limits and creates a $40 monthly deductible. The current annual deductible is $500.

PACENET is the lottery-funded prescription plan eligible to older Pennsylvanians whose income exceeds the PACE benefit limits.

‘We need to make sure, when it comes to buying prescription drugs, we stress flexibility and make sure all senior citizens are covered,’ Coleman said. ‘The goal is having a fair, flexible prescription drug program that covers every senior citizen.’

State Rep. Anthony Deluca, D-Penn Hills, said he introduced a plan last year similar to the plan being laid out by Senate Democrats.

Deluca said his plan would combine Medicare, the PACE program, and public employee prescription plans and demand a bigger discount on prescription drugs.

Deluca will reintroduce the legislation.

‘There are an abundance of bills,’ White said. ‘That shows you that it is an enormous problem.’

Landis is calling for action. ‘There’s no bigger issue that concerns our members more than the cost of prescription drugs,’ Landis said. ‘Something needs to be done soon.’

Jason Walker can be reached at .

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