JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Bob Holden on Wednesday tried to reassure senior citizens that their prescription drug needs will be provided for between state and federal programs.
Speaking during lunch hour at a senior center, Holden said that, in light of the Medicare reform bill that Congress passed Tuesday, some changes should be made to the state program, called SenioRx.
Missouri’s program provides prescription drug coverage for those 65 and over who are too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid but too poor to afford private prescription coverage. Nearly 19,000 people are enrolled in the program.
Under the new federal legislation, seniors obtaining drug coverage through a stand-alone plan in 2006 would pay a $35 monthly premium and a $250 annual deductible, followed by 75 percent coverage for up to $2,250 in costs. There would be a break in coverage over that level until costs reached $5,100 — a gap of $2,850 — before benefits resumed and began paying 95 percent of remaining costs.
Holden said he would propose legislation to make sure the Missouri program fills in gaps in the federal program, covering 75 percent of drug costs higher than $2,250 and up to $5,000. He said the changes in the program should require no additional money and the income limits could possibly be broadened to cover more people.
“There are significant gaps in this new federal program,” Holden said. “I believe the Missouri SenioRx program can fill that gap and dovetail with the new federal program to give Missouri seniors real prescription drug relief.”
Rep. Mark Bruns, R-Jefferson City, said he has seen no details of proposed legislation yet but in concept supports changes that would simply fill the gap in the federal program.
“I’m not saying I want to see Missouri SenioRx go away or anything, but I don’t see the need for redundancy if we’re going to be doing the same thing the federal plan is,” Bruns said. “There’s no point in spending state money when there’s a federal plan there that can cover it. However, I want to make sure we don’t leave anybody uncovered.”
Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell said he would work to have recommendations on whether the enrollment criteria can be expanded and other details of the proposed legislation as early as next week.