Washington AIDS Advisory Council Urges Gov. To Assist HIV-Positive Dual Eligibles With New Drug Co-Payments
The Washington state Governor's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS on Tuesday adopted a report to send to Gov. Gary Locke (D) urging him to take steps to help HIV-positive individuals who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare pay for the cost of new drug co-payments, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Currently, dual eligibles -- some of whom are the "sickest and poorest" patients statewide, including HIV-positive people, low-income seniors and people with disabilities such as multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy -- are exempt from prescription drug co-payments. However, under the new law known as the Medicaid Modernization Act, dual eligibles by 2006 will be required to sign up for Medicare prescription drug benefits and they would pay between $1 and $5 per prescription, according to the Post-Intelligencer. The council's report urges the governor to lobby the federal government to use federal funds to cover the cost of co-pays for dual eligibles. However, the report says that if the federal government will not cover the costs, the state has a "moral obligation" to offset the cost of co-pays for dual eligibles, according to the Post-Intelligencer.
Possible Ramifications of New Plan
State Medicaid Director Doug Porter said that "national studies have shown that patients over age 65 are on an average of 26 medications over a year ... [a]nd disabled individuals on Medicaid can be on 17 to 20 drugs at a time." Tim Hillard, a council member and author of the council report, said, "We think co-pays will lead to people stretching their prescriptions or going without." Hillard added that skipping doses of medications is "especially dangerous" among HIV-positive people, not only for the patients themselves but also for public health reasons because inconsistent adherence to a drug regimen can lead to the development of drug-resistant HIV strains, according to the Post-Intelligencer. A spokesperson for Locke said that the governor had not yet seen the council's report and could not comment on it, the Post-Intelligencer reports. Approximately 120,000 Washington residents -- 11% of the Medicaid population in the state -- are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare; however, that 11% represents 48% of the state's prescription drug costs, according to Jim Stevenson, spokesperson for the state Department of Social and Health Services (Smith, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/1).