The National Governors Association (NGA) has unanimously voted to support a provision in the U.S. House of Representatives version of the Medicare prescription drug bill that would require the federal government to take on the state's $7 billion burden of paying for prescription drugs for the 6.2 million Americans who receive both Medicare and Medicaid health insurance coverage.
For the lower-income individuals who are fully enrolled in both programs, referenced as dual eligibles, Medicaid pays for services that Medicare does not cover like prescription drugs and long-term care. Some 35 percent of all Medicaid expenditures are on behalf of dual eligibles and 57 percent of all Medicaid expenditures for prescription drugs are incurred for beneficiaries who are enrolled in Medicare.
The House Medicare prescription drug bill would phase out over 15 years the states' obligations to pay prescription drug costs. The Senate version would deny a Medicare drug benefit to dual eligibles. The cost of prescription drug costs is the fastest growing segment of Medicaid health care spending and many states have already instituted stringent cost containment programs that deny needed medications to people with serious mental illness.
NAMI supports the NGA's call to shift the funding of prescription drug costs of dual eligibles to the federal government. NAMI believes a Medicare drug benefit that requires the federal government to cover these costs would provide substantial relief for state Medicaid expenditures. Over the period of the phase in the House bill, state expenditures on prescription drug costs could be reduced by as much $30 billion. By providing substantial relief to the states, Medicaid programs would be in a stronger financial position to continue to provide appropriate and effective medications and services to people living with serious mental illnesses.
NAMI also supports the addition of provisions to the Medicare prescription drug legislation that insures access to needed medications for vulnerable populations.
Congress should take the necessary steps to redress the growing financial burdens that have been placed on state Medicaid programs that have added to the crushing budget deficits and denial of needed treatments to save money. Alleviating the financial burden on states for paying the prescription drug costs of dual eligibles would be an important first step in helping battered states and lower-income beneficiaries weather the current economic storm.
NAMI state and affiliate leaders and members are asked to contact the Administration and their House and Senate representatives to ask them to support the states in budgetary crisis by continuing to fund all citizens 65 and older with Medicare prescription benefits.
All members of Congress can be reached in by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll free at 1-800-839-5276 or at 202-224-3121 or by going to the Contact Your Representatives section of NAMI.org and selecting this issue from National Issues. District and Washington office numbers can be found in your local phone book or through www.congress.org.