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Rx groups seek action on Medicaid aid

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WASHINGTON — Five pharmacy associations have called on Congress to extend the temporary increase in federal funding for medical assistance that has helped states pay their Medicaid bills.

In a letter to Senate leaders, the pharmacy associations urged lawmakers to restore the $24 billion in aid that had been removed from a tax extenders bill that was passed by the House last month.

“Without action by Congress, states will likely be forced to make further cuts to Medi­caid and other programs, which could reduce access to critical health care products and services, including prescription medications and related pharmacist services, as well as increased taxes to meet their balanced budget requirements,” the letter from the American Pharmacists Association, the Food Marketing Institute, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations and the National Community Pharmacists Association said.

“These actions will create a further drag on the economy and may result in additional job loss,” the groups stated.

The additional assistance — known as the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) — was enacted last year and is set to expire at the end of 2010. If the measure gets extended, the extra aid will be provided to the states for another six-month period.

The tax extenders bill that was introduced in the Senate a week after the House passed its version of the legislation included the $24 billion enhanced federal funding. The bill has yet to be voted on.

In their letter, the pharmacy groups said that without the extension of the funding hike, states will be forced to make drastic cuts to Medicaid and other programs.

“While the United States economy has shown positive signs of recovering, state finances are expected to continue to suffer at least two more years, with state budget deficits approaching $180 billion,” the associations wrote. “Therefore, continued federal assistance to states at this time is critical, as the recession has driven many Americans out of work, increasing reliance on state Medicaid programs.”

The groups warn that if states are forced to cut spending, patients’ health could be put in jeopardy by the reduced access to health care.


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