June 15, 2005

Medicaid Drug Restrictions Coming?

New limit on drugs may hurt ill poor: The state is forcing Medicaid mental-health patients to try the cheapest medicines first.

Often people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis have to go through several medications before they find one that works for them. Unfortunately, as of July 1, Florida mental-health patients who are on a medication that works for them, might have to switch to one that doesn't - that is if they're poor. A new article discusses this in detail and explains this to be the result of Gov. Jeb Bush's administration's attempt "(...)to save $292 million in the state's $2.5 billion drug program for the poor and disabled." The administration has "persuaded the Florida Legislature this spring to impose strict limits on patient access to mental-health drugs. (This) includes making brand-name drugs less accessible and requiring the poor and disabled to start off on the cheapest drugs first."

This change in operating proceedures could seriously impact people. Many health professionals agree that medication for psychoses is dissimilar from medicines for other "conditions such as heart disease or stomach troubles, (because) drugs for behavioral disorders and emotional illnesses are prone to major side effects and are not one-size-fits-all solutions in a bottle." However, state health officials and some legislators insist that "the new policies (...) will help rein in costs of Medicaid, the state-federal program for serving the poor that consumes a quarter of the state's nearly $65 billion budget."

Because these new policies seem more disastrous for poor mental health patients already on a medication that works, it seems important to clarify whether these policies will affect existing Medicaid patients or new ones. Kathleen Hale, president of the National Mental Health Association "has been urging state officials to clarify (this)" for weeks.

"Imagine the anxiety for these people, not knowing if in just a few weeks they may no longer have access to medications that keep them from psychosis and keep them able to work, supporting families and functioning normally," Hale said. "Do you make arrangements for someone to take care of you, or for you to be stabilized? Do you tell your children? Your boss?"

Though this information is disconcerting, there are other things to consider before taking a stance. For example, studies have shown that some newer antipsychotics despite having different names and being more expensive, may not (depending upon the given person) be much better than the older antipsychotics. To learn more about the differences between newer and older antipsychotics: http://tinyurl.com/9f4au

To read the full article provided by Orlando Sentinel:


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