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Januay 25, 2006     (512) 463-0300

STATE TO RE-INSTATE MEDICAID PRESCRIPTION PROGRAM TO COVER FEDERAL SHORTFALLS

Many Texans attempting to enroll in the new federal Medicare Part D Prescription Drug program are finding out that they may not be able to access this service. Senator Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio held a press conference today to raise awareness of this difficulty and to announce that the governor will allow the re-implementation of the state's Medicaid prescription program to ensure those who most need medicine will be able to get it.

According to Van de Putte, Texans who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare are having difficulty enrolling in the federal program, due largely to computer problems and other logistical issues. These "dual-eligible" individuals -more than 300,000 in Texas- often have to wait in pharmacies for hours for Medicare approval, often ending with the patient being referred to a different pharmacy or even being denied needed medications. Van de Putte said the problem has reached a crisis point. "The problems associated with the enactment of the new Medicare Part D Prescription Drug program have reached life-threatening critical mass," she said. "Hundreds of thousands of Texas without other options are in danger of not having access to the life-saving medications they need."

Texas pharmacists joined Van de Putte in calling for immediate action. Pharmacist Rene Garza, who owns S&S Pharmacy in Austin, says the federal program is increasing labor costs for all pharmacies, as workers try to overcome bureaucratic red tape to get patients vital prescriptions. "There's a lot that pharmacists are doing, but there's a lot that government should be doing," said Garza. "If we donít take care of this [problem] at the pharmacy level, patients will need to care somewhere, and it may be more expensive if they end up in emergency rooms for emergency care."

Van de Putte announced that Governor Rick Perry, currently visiting troops in Iraq, phoned this morning to confirm that Texas would reinstitute the state's Medicaid program to provide medicines for those who cannot enroll in the federal plan. With this move, Texas will join 25 other states in offering some sort of coverage to patients who cannot access the new federal program. While the cost to the state for this could be considerable, Washington says it will reimburse the state for expenditures up to February 15.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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