Feb 10, 2000 - Governor O'Bannon and his prescription-medicine proposal
O'Bannon plan could pay close to half of low-income seniors' prescription costs
Governor Frank O'Bannon today is spelling out how much his prescription-medicine proposal could benefit Indiana's low-income elderly. By one measure, it could cover close to half the average prescription costs of most of the neediest 55,000 Hoosier seniors.
O'Bannon is speaking at the Indianapolis Senior Citizens' Center (9:30 a.m. EST), the Juliet A. Peddle Park community room in Terre Haute (11:15 a.m. EST) and the Southwest Regional Center for Aging in Evansville (12:30 p.m. CST). (He previously spoke on this plan in Gary and Mishawaka.)
The governor is also urging Hoosiers to encourage state lawmakers to approve his proposal before they adjourn next month. He would earmark $20 million this year from the state's share of the national tobacco settlement to help low-income senior citizens pay for the prescription drugs they need.
"Thousands of our most vulnerable elderly citizens, maybe even some of you, are in desperate need of our help," O'Bannon points out. "They sometimes have to choose between filling their prescriptions or paying the light bill or buying groceries in what are supposed to be their golden years. We have the money to help, and there is no excuse for us not to act this year."
"How many needy seniors the state can help depends on where experts draw the line for eligibility and benefits. For instance, 55,000 elderly Hoosiers have household incomes between 100 and 135 percent of the federal poverty level. That's between $8,240 and $11,125 for a single person or $11,060 to $14,931 for a couple", O'Bannon notes.
"With various economies of scale and program efficiencies, we think we can spread that $20 million to cover 40 to 50 percent of the average prescription costs of most of those 55,000 needy seniors. Elderly Hoosiers, on average, shell out more than $1,000 a year for prescriptions," the governor explains.
He is focusing just above the federal poverty level, O'Bannon notes, because at or below it, Medicaid covers most or all prescription costs.
"You and your generation worked hard all your lives to help your communities grow and prosper. You've raised your families and you've earned a good retirement," the governor said. "You deserve our help, and you deserve it as soon as we can possibly give it to you."
Legislation containing O'Bannon's proposal has been approved by the Indiana House of Representatives.
The state Senate has passed a different approach to the state's tobacco settlement. The Senate plan would not help with the cost of prescription drugs and would spend no additional dollars this year from the tobacco settlement.
Indiana has already received about $94 million in settlement funds and expects about $200 million more during the state's current two-year budget cycle.
In 1999 the legislature committed $46.9 million, all for the Children's Health Insurance Program, including $28 million for fiscal 2001, beginning this July 1. No more tobacco dollars can be spent before June 30, 2001, without new legislation this year.
The governor has asked the General Assembly to dedicate a total of $110 million for fiscal 2001 from the state's tobacco settlement funds:
- That is $28 million for the Children's Health Insurance Program;
- $35 million for tobacco education, prevention and control;
- $27 million for health care including treatment of smoking-related illnesses among seniors, minorities and youth and for community health centers in rural and other areas that are medically underserved;
- and, $20 million for prescription drugs for low-income senior citizens.
The national tobacco settlement is expected to bring Indiana an estimated $4.2 billion through the year 2025.
The O'Bannon-Kernan administration advocates using the money to:
- Prevent smoking, especially among children, and help smokers kick the habit;
- Provide all Hoosiers with better access to quality health care;
- Improve the availability of health care to low-income people and underserved areas;
- Research more effective treatments and cures for tobacco-related disease; and
- Address special health care needs of people who suffer the most from tobacco-related diseases.
Reporters' contacts: Phil Bremen or Cheryl Reed, 317-232-4578