JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
If the Missouri General Assembly does not act, a popular state assistance program for prescription drugs will expire in August.
Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, is pushing to extend the Missouri Rx program for another three years. The General Assembly passed a similar extension in 2011.
“It has to be reauthorized because that’s the way the statute is written,” Flanigan said. “A lot of programs we have in the state are put up for renewal every three years to force the Legislature to look at them to see if they are doing what we wanted them to do. Missouri Rx has been a good program since 2006 and been reauthorized a few times, and that’s what we’re doing now.”
The program works with federal Medicare Part D plans to pay up to 50 percent of out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs. Any prescription drug covered by Medicare Part D is covered for the entire month by Missouri Rx. The state spends just shy of $24 million a year on the program.
In addition to providing assistance to low-income seniors, the program also assists Missourians with disabilities. To be eligible for the program, an individual senior cannot have an income exceeding $21,660; for married couples, the amount is $29,140. Elderly and disabled Missourians who are enrolled in Medicaid are automatically enrolled in Missouri Rx.
Flanigan’s bill comes after Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon issued a call to extend Missouri Rx during his State of the State address in January.
“We need to reauthorize the Missouri Rx program, to prevent more than 200,000 seniors and Missourians with disabilities from paying more for their prescription drugs,” Nixon said at the time. “Let’s work together, as we did just three years ago, to extend this essential help for Missourians in need.”
Flanigan’s two-sentence bill, HB 1627, was first heard Wednesday in the House Health Care Policy Committee. It received support from groups like the AARP advocating on behalf of seniors. Nobody was there to testify in opposition.
“We’re not changing the core of the program or adding anything to it,” Flanigan said. “We’ll have another review of it, but we want it reauthorized.”
In an era of term limits, when lawmakers have a maximum of eight years in both chambers of the General Assembly, Flanigan — chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, Mental Health and Social Services — believes three-year reauthorizations are good and allow for less informed and less senior members of the Legislature to learn more about the programs for which the state appropriates resources.
“It is a program that has served the state well,” he said. “Under term limits, if you bring it up every three years, people will have been around to hear at least one reauthorization of it.”
THE ENTIRE MISSOURI RX PROGRAM covers more than 227,000 Missourians, according to the Department of Social Services.