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Thursday, March 13, 2003

House OKs Prescription-Drug Benefit Expansion

The Associated Press
    SANTA FE The House approved a proposal Wednesday to expand a program to help older New Mexicans buy prescription drugs at lower cost.
    The bill revises a senior prescription drug program created last year.
    Originally, the program was for people 65 and older who lacked prescription coverage. They could pay an annual fee to take advantage of the discounted drug prices that the Retiree Health Care Authority contracts for through a group plan.
    The House-passed bill would expand the eligibility to cover New Mexican 65 or older regardless of whether they have coverage for prescription drugs under an insurance plan.
    House Majority Leader Danice Picraux, D-Albuquerque, said expanding the program would give New Mexicans another option for finding the lowest cost medications.
    The proposal also makes it clear that the Retiree Health Care Authority has the power to collect a fee of up to $60 a year from participants to administer the program.
    Start-up of the program was slowed last year because of legal questions over whether the authority could use money from the retirees' fund for initial administrative expenses.
    The House passed the bill 61-1 and sent it to the Senate for consideration.