News Briefs

Questions about drug cards

The Bush administration says it will fight a federal court decision that blocked Medicare’s plans to promote private pharmacy discount cards. Tom Scully, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, says the government will appeal the injunction, which prevented the fall launch of the program. Bush officials say the promotional program would help millions of cash-strapped seniors get cheaper medicines.

"We are determined to get a prescription drug benefit to seniors,’’ says Scully. "We should be actively looking at anything that works."

In July, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association filed a suit against Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and Scully. The lawsuit argued the plan did not clearly outline who must subsidize the lower prices. It also questioned whether federal officials had the power to promote the cards without Congress’ approval. U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman blocked the start of the program.

Some lawmakers promised to support a bill that would make the plan a permanent law. Scully told a group of health care professionals that he is confident that Congress might consider such a bill, even with a social policy schedule severely limited by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.