Last Modified: Monday, August 13, 2012 10:12 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana's health agency must save $56 million on drugs for Medicaid patients to help balance the state budget, but doesn't yet have a final plan for doing that.
The changes will take effect Oct. 1, and emergency rules will be published in September, said Calder Lynch, a top aide to health Secretary Bruce Greenstein.
Legislators, pharmacy interests and others say they are concerned about the lack of transparency and what they call a rush to make changes that need caution to avoid damaging health care, The Advocate (http://bit.ly/QPwSYf ) reported. Consumer groups worry about restricted drug access.
"They are creating an emergency," said state Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia. "They are rushing this thing way too much."
Delays will only hurt the agency's ability to make the savings the budget demands, Lynch said. Louisiana's fiscal year began July 1.
Mills and state Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, said the administration has talked in generalities about how to cut the drug budget. They and others want details, including their effect on pharmacists and their clients.
"It's got to come at the expense of somebody, somewhere," Johns said. "It cannot be from access by the public and hopefully not at the expense of the provider."
Mills is a pharmacist and banker. Johns is an insurance agent and pharmacist who hasn't practiced in 30 years.
If the state is not careful, Mills said, it could lose money from pharmaceutical company rebates while it is trying to reduce costs.
Pharmacy services, at $950 million a year, are the second-largest expense in the Medicaid budget.