McCaskill details prescription drug plan

Friday, October 1, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- About $100 of the $150 that John Haynes spends on prescription drugs every month comes out of his pocket -- for heart and breathing medication for him, blood pressure medicine for his wife.

That's a problem facing too many Missourians, said State Auditor and gubernatorial candidate Claire McCaskill said.

"From senior citizens to families with young children, the costs of prescription drugs are a drain on our pocketbooks that puts further stress on the family budget," McCaskill said. "Unless we take action, things will only get worse."

McCaskill noted that she helps her 76-year-old mother pay for prescription drugs. "I realize how many people there are like my mother out there that don't have any help," she said.

McCaskill's plan calls for:

Using the state's buying power to reduce drug prices for lower-income Missourians. McCaskill said the state would negotiate discounts with pharmacies and drug manufacturers in the form of rebates. Participation by pharmacies in the rebate program would be voluntary.

Allowing Missourians to purchase drugs from Canada. McCaskill said she would establish a state-operated Web site to facilitate those purchases.

Using state funds to fill a gap in Medicare funding. Currently, seniors must pay the full cost of drugs once the total hits $2,250 annually, and the federal government won't cover any additional cost until it reaches $5,000. McCaskill said her plan would cover 75 percent of drug costs for seniors in that gap between $2,250 and $5,000.

McCaskill's Republican opponent, Matt Blunt, earlier outline his prescription drug plan. It also calls for consolidating the state's buying power. And his plan would use generic drugs when they are as effective as more costly brand-name drugs, and develop a list of preferred drugs.

The problem with allowing drugs from Canada is they may not have been adequately tested, said John Hancock, a spokesman for Blunt. Those drugs also could raise homeland security concerns if the drugs were tampered with, he said.

"Matt Blunt's prescription drug plan is aimed at protecting seniors and reducing costs," Hancock said. "Claire McCaskill's plan by its definition will increase drug costs and state spending, and potentially expose seniors to unsafe pharmaceuticals."

But McCaskill said her plan would not increase costs because it would use existing but underutilized funds. She said the state would identify Canadian pharmacies that have been inspected and proven to be safe. The state would sue the federal government, if necessary, to allow Missourians to buy drugs from Canada, McCaskill said.


On the Net:

Claire McCaskill's campaign site, http://www.claireonline.com

Matt Blunt's campaign site, http://www.mattblunt.com

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