FEBRUARY 24, 2005 - Posted at 7:52 a.m. CST
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The state Senate has approved legislation intended to provide lower cost medicine to thousands of Arkansans who don't have prescription drug health insurance coverage. All that remains for the proposed Arkansas RX program is House concurrence in a Senate amendment, to make the program contingent upon the availability of funding, before the bill goes to Governor Huckabee's desk.
State officials estimate that 400,000 Arkansans are without prescription drug coverage.
The legislation was sponsored by freshman Representative Dustin McDaniel of Jonesboro. It would require the state to negotiate rebates from drug companies, and use the rebates to cut the price of drugs for Arkansans without coverage who earn within 350 percent of the federal poverty level.
Testimony for the bill in committee said the discounts could be as much as 20 percent on brand-name drugs and 60 percent on generics.
Senator Jerry Bookout of Jonesboro handled the bill in the Senate. He said the program would furnish some discount prices for the working poor.
However, some senators questioned the program. Senator Shawn Womack of Mountain Home asked if the price of drugs for everyone else would rise to cover the cost of the rebates. Senator Percy Malone of Arkadelphia, a pharmacist, acknowledged that could happen.