Louisiana House Bill Would Waive Medicaid Prescription Limits for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C Patients
A bill (HB 957) that would waive state-imposed prescription and testing limits for Medicaid beneficiaries with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C or terminal kidney disease was scheduled to be introduced yesterday in the Louisiana House, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Yvonne Welch (D), would forbid the state Department of Health and Hospitals from placing limits on the number of diagnostic tests or prescription drugs covered under Medicaid for patients with the diseases. To meet a cost-cutting order by Gov. Mike Foster (R), the DHH less than one month ago limited Medicaid beneficiaries to eight prescriptions per month unless a doctor overrides that number. Officials estimate that the prescription limits will save the state $12.5 million by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. Most HIV-positive people require multiple prescriptions each month. Dr. David Mushatt, a principal investigator in the New Orleans-based Louisiana Community AIDS Research Program, said that HIV/AIDS patients should be exempt from the limits, adding that "if nothing else, [the bill] alleviates anxiety for the patients and cuts down on the kind of foolish communications that's necessary back and forth to get these waivers." DHH Secretary David Hood said that Welch's bill is not needed because the prescription limit can be waived by a doctor's order. According to the Times-Picayune, prescription drug costs "have long been the driving force behind the rising cost of Medicaid." Hood said that the state this year likely will spend $650 million on prescription drugs, and that figure is expected to rise to $1.1 billion by 2006. DHH spokesperson Bob Johannessen said that the state spent approximately $11.7 million on antiretroviral drugs in fiscal year 2002 (Moller, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.