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Texas Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a proposed bill that would have expanded health insurance coverage to the working poor, mentally ill, and children, while also saving the state $416 million. The bill would have covered breast cancer screening and contraceptive services for poor women as well as increased health care access for the mentally ill and HIV patients. The governor’s office issued a statement saying Perry believed the bill’s objectives could be accomplished in spite of the veto and that he saw the proposed measure as extending health care coverage to people who might then assume they are entitled to it.
Vermont Gov. Howard Dean urged his state’s residents to look to Canada for cheaper prescription medication following the rejection by a federal appeals court of a state plan to lower the cost of prescriptions for some 70,000 state Medicaid recipients. The federal court ruled against Vermont’s plan because it found that many state residents who were counted as Medicaid beneficiaries and deemed eligible under the state program did not, in fact, qualify for the full range of Medicaid benefits and thus were ineligible to participate in the state’s proposed prescription plan. Rather than drive across the border, Dean urged those affected to take advantage of United Health Alliance, a mail-order program that offers medications at Canadian prices. The program requires that a physician fill out a form that details the patient’s prescription needs. That form is then faxed to a Canadian pharmacy that in turn sends a three-month supply to the patient’s doctor’s office, where the patient can pick up his or her medications.
In what comes as little surprise to those in the health care profession, a recent study conducted by the patient advocacy group Families USA found that over the past year, the average price of medications most often prescribed to seniors increased by 6.1%, compared with a 3.4% increase in medication costs for the population at large. The study, which examined the prices that pharmaceutical manufacturers recommend that pharmacies charge, has met with some resistance from the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America, which counters that the study’s findings assume that all elderly people pay the same price for medication. Currently, only about 33% of the nation’s 40 million elderly and disabled residents are enrolled in Medicare and have drug coverage.
A California physician was found liable for recklessness and elder abuse for not administering adequate pain medication to a dying man in the final stages of lung cancer. The physician, who treated the man for five days in the hospital before he was discharged home where he eventually died, has been ordered to pay $1.5 million to the patient’s family for pain and suffering of the patient. It is the first verdict in a lawsuit brought against a doctor under the California Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. Nurses at the hospital reported charting pain levels of between seven and 10, with 10 being the worst pain imaginable. Family members were eventually able to contact Compassion in Dying, a nonprofit organization that advocates aggressive pain care for the dying, and through the group were able to consult with a second physician who prescribed appropriate pain medication.