Nevada Task Force Approves $4.6M to Start Prescription Drug Program for Low-Income Seniors
Despite continued skepticism over Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn's (R) SenioRx program to bring "affordable" prescription medications to low-income seniors, the Task Force for a Fund for a Healthy Nevada last week unanimously backed the release of $4.6 million necessary to start program, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Under Guinn's plan, 12,000 low-income seniors will be able to purchase policies with Fidelity Security Life Insurance Co. that "entitle them to receive drugs at lower costs." To help Nevada's lower-income seniors purchase the coverage, the state will provide a $480 yearly subsidy to seniors with annual incomes of less than $12,700. Those seniors still will have to pay another $417 for the policy. Once enrolled, seniors will pay $10 for generic drugs and either $35 or 50% of the cost of brand-name drugs, whichever is higher. Task force member Dr. John Ellerton said the plan "is clearly an interim stopgap measure. This plan hides the fact that we are being overcharged for drugs." Assembly member Barbara Buckley, the task force chair, added that the program might assist seniors who "need one or two generic drugs, but won't be of much help to those on limited incomes who need high-priced patented drugs." Under the plan, low-income seniors could end up spending up to 34% of their monthly income on medications, according to Carla Sloan, Nevada director of AARP. Stating that "Gov. Guinn would be the first to agree [the plan] doesn't go far enough," Guinn senior adviser Denice Miller said, "You do what you can with what you have. We would like to do more." The task force has given Buckley approval to develop bills that would increase funding for SenioRx and to study whether the state, instead of an insurer, should run the program. The 2001 Legislature will discuss the findings (Vogel, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 10/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.