State Capitol
Press Release
January 13, 2006
Governor Issues Emergency Prescription Drug Assistance for Medicare Beneficiaries
(Salem, OR) – Today Governor Ted Kulongoski executed an emergency relief plan to provide temporary assistance to the thousands of Oregon Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries currently being denied access because of difficulties the federal government is incurring in implementing the new Medicare prescription drug program. 
“The state cannot stand by while many of our most vulnerable Oregonians who are eligible for prescription drug coverage under the federal Medicare prescription drug program are being turned away without life-saving medications,” Governor Ted Kulongoski said. “I appreciate that our federal agency partners are taking steps to address these problems, but those fixes either aren’t working or aren’t happening fast enough.  It is unacceptable that even one citizen’s health is compromised while they wait for their government to fix the system.”
Since the launch of the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit on January 1, 2006, approximately 10,000 of the 54,000 Oregonians who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid (dual-eligibles) have had difficulty accessing medication guaranteed under the new federal Medicare benefit.  The primary reason citizens are being denied their medication is that many pharmacies are not able to verify that the patient is enrolled in one of the federal Medicare Prescription Drug Plans or that the patient is eligible for low-income subsidy assistance.
Under the Governor’s plan the state will reimburse pharmacies for a 30-day supply of medication if the pharmacist is not able to bill Medicare or one of the federal benefit plans. 
In a conversation today with United States Health and Human Services Secretary, Michael Leavitt, the Governor stressed the responsibility of the federal government to make the program work.  In the Governor’s conversation, he proposed several immediate actions for HHS to take to assure that those eligible get their prescriptions filled.  In the mean time, the Governor’s plan is expected to assist approximately 100 Oregon dual eligibles per day.  The state will seek reimbursement from the federal government for those costs, something the Governor also stressed with Secretary Leavitt.
Since the beginning of the year, the Department of Human Services has received more than 1200 reports from regional agency offices about difficulty accessing needed-medications under this new federal Medicare benefit.  In response to those reports, the State Department of Human Services has been working on a case-by-case basis with each beneficiary experiencing difficulties and helping them navigate through the federal system to get their prescriptions filled.
“We have been receiving hundreds of complaints and working tirelessly to try and help DHS clients across the state who have been having trouble obtaining their medications through the new federal program,” said Dr. Bruce Goldberg, Director of the Department of Human Services. 
“This action today by the Governor will provide much needed relief to those dually eligible so they can continue to receive their medications.”
Media Contact:
Anna Richter Taylor, (503) 378-6496
JaneEllen Wedanz (DHS), (503) 551-8121

Page updated: October 22, 2006

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