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24 States Hope Pharmacy Plus Helps Medicaid

Twenty-four states may gamble that providing a prescription drug program to low-income elderly who do not qualify for Medicaid could save them money in the long run.

Under the Bush administration's Pharmacy Plus program, states may apply to the federal government for waivers to extend Medicaid coverage for prescription drugs to Medicare enrollees with incomes of up to 200 percent of poverty.

The Illinois and Wisconsin versions of Pharmacy Plus already have been approved. Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, and South Carolina have filed formal applications, while another 18 states have filed tentative applications or have expressed interest in the program, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Some states have raised concerns about the financial risks involved. To pay for Pharmacy Plus, a state has to agree to forgo the federal guarantee to match what the state spends on its Medicaid population, replacing it with a cap or matching funds.

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