Deep cuts to drug coverage in Senate planby John Kennedy | April 1st, 2011
Almost 90,000 poor, elderly or severely ill Floridians would lose government-paid prescription drug benefits beginning next year under legislation approved Friday by the Senate Budget Committee.
The move came a day after the same panel approved a red-ink plagued, $69.8 billion budget that included $450 million in cuts stemming from erasing the services.
But it also clouds the future treatment for some of the state’s most vulnerable patients, said Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston.
She said it’s time lawmakers look at tax or fee hikes to ease the deep cuts ruling Republicans are using to close an almost $3.8 billion budget gap.
“I know we need to cut,” Rich acknowledged. “But we’ve been cutting for three years now. We need to look at other options.”
The legislation (CS/SB 7174) affects more than 46,000 adults in the Medically Needy program, who would be limited to receiving state-paid physician coverage, losing drug coverage. State and federal financing of costly medication therapy, though, helps sustain many of these transplant patients and catastrophically ill Floridians.
The Senate also would end the state’s Medicaid Aged and Disabled Program (Meds A/D) in April, eliminating prescriptions for more than 42,000 low-income elderly and disabled Floridians.
Health and Human Services Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he hoped to reinstate the programs during budget negotiations with the House, which has avoided the proposed cuts.
But he said the stark decision also makes a case for the Legislature’s proposed Medicaid overhaul, which would steer 2.9 million low-income, elderly and disabled people into managed care programs to save money.
“You can’t do everything,” Negron said of the budget cuts coursing through health and social service programs.
Rich, however, said the Legislature was effectively “sentencing people to death,” by erasing programs that help people get needed medication.
“I know the idea of bringing new resources here isn’t part of the ideology of the people in power,” she said.
But that sparked Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, to swing back, saying he was tired of hearing fellow lawmakers fling fiery rhetoric while ignoring the message of last fall’s campaigns: that Floridians needed help with their tax burden.
“We’re in a very desperate situation in Florida,” Thrasher said. “The people in power are the 18 million people who helped vote us into office.”