GOV SIGNS OVERSIGHT BILL OVER PART D PLANS BUT VETOES REPORT CARD

  • Vetoed AB2170 (Chan) Would Have Created Report Card for Part D Plans
  • Signed AB2667 (Baca) Will Use State ’s Purchasing To Ensure Oversight Over Part D Plans
  • Also: AB2911 (Nunez/Perata) Provides Some Relief to Those in Part D “Donut Hole”

As he approaches his final few hours of signing and vetoing bills, Governor Schwarzenegger has announced signing legislation that would provide greater state review over new federal Medicare Part D plans, but also vetoed a report card that would have provided information for seniors and people with disabilities.

For an updated list of health consumer bills signed or vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger, go to the Health Access website at:
http://www.health-access.org/advocating/pending2006_bills.htm

The Governor’s website listing signatures and vetoes is at:
http://gov.ca.gov/archive/press-releases/2006/09

The Medicare Part D bills were designed to allow the state use its authority to place some state oversight over the newly-created prescription drug plans in the program. The signing of the oversight bill, AB2667(Baca), was announced in the veto message of the report card bill, AB2170(Chan):
http://gov.ca.gov/pdf/press/ab_2170_veto.pdf

NO CALIFORNIA REPORT CARD: Because of Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto, those on Medicare will have to make choices about these new prescription drug plans without the benefit of a report card. AB 2170 (Chan) would have compiled information on the performance of prescription drug plans, much the way the state publishes a report card for HMOs.

However, California will have taken two steps toward filling the gaps in the Medicare Part D, providing some benefit to seniors and people with disabilities, due to Governor Schwarzenegger signing the following two bills:

* OVERSIGHT: AB 2667 (Baca) will allow the state to monitor Part D prescription drug plans, and to use the state’s ability as a purchaser to penalize those plans with bad records. Having the state use it authority as a contractor (through Medi-Cal, CALPERS, etc.) can also discourage “bad actors” from coming into California.

* DISCOUNTS FOR THE DONUT HOLE: AB2911(Nunez/Perata) will create a prescription drug discount program. In addition to helping millions of uninsured people, it would also provide a discounts to Medicare recipients who are not covered in the so-called “donut hole” in Part D, when coverage runs out after $2,000 worth of drug costs.

STEPS TOWARD OVERSIGHT OF PART D PLANS: Last year, AB1359(Chan) was enacted, which gave the Department of Managed Health Care explicit authority to license these new private prescription drug plans, although the federal government has broad authority under Part D to pre-empt state action.

Last week, Health Access California released a policy brief about the lack of state or federal oversight over Medicare Part D plans, available at the Health Access website at:
http://www.health-access.org/providing/docs/PartDPolicyBriefFinal9-22-06.doc

OTHER ACTIONS ON PART D: Medicare Part D has gotten a lot of attention from state policymakers, with specific focus on low-income seniors and people with disabilities. This was most notably during the initial implementation after January 1st, when one million vulnerable Californians were automatically swtiched from Medi-Cal drug coverage to the new Medicare Part D private plans. Many of these “dual-eligible” seniors and people with disabilities found significant problems in getting needed medication, and so the legislative leadership passed several bills to provide emergency “coverage of last resort.” California has even extended that emergency coverage program through January of 2007, in possible anticipation of problems with new enrollees and changes at the beginning of next year.

However, even with this emergency coverage, these one million “dual-eligibles” are worse off than they were last year, with a more costly, less comprehensive benefit than what they had under Medi-Cal. Senior, health, and low-income advocates argued that Medi-Cal should provide assistance to cover the newly-imposed co-payments for these very low-income seniors and people with disabilities, but this was not included in the final budget.

California senior, health, and low-income advocates will cotninue to pursue efforts to fix the Medicare Part D law at the national level, but also to urge the state take aggressive action on behalf of those with Medicare coverage. For a fact sheet on Medicare Part D and possible solutions, go to the Health Access website at:
http://www.health-access.org/providing/docs/PartDFactSheetwActionSept06.doc

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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