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Prescription programs pass tests

February 20, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Legislation to keep two Maryland prescription drug programs flourishing passed key tests on Wednesday.

A bill to expand the state's Pharmacy Assistance Program, which offers prescription drug benefits to low-income people, moves to the Senate after passing the House of Delegates 137-0.

By increasing the income standards slightly, an additional 200 people will be able to enroll statewide, according to estimates from the Department of Legislative Services.

The House also gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill to save the Medbank program operating out of the Horace W. Murphy Health Center in Hagerstown.

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Medbank helps patients fill out the necessary paperwork to qualify for free drugs from pharmaceutical companies.

Begun in Hagerstown before expanding statewide last year, the program is due to expire at the end of June unless the legislation passes and Gov. Robert Ehrlich agrees to add about $3 million in his budget.

Ehrlich's administration had been unfamiliar with the program.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, arranged a meeting between Medbank representatives and an official from the governor's office on Wednesday.

"I felt a lot better after the meeting about the possibility of the extension of the program," Munson said.

In the past year, the program has helped 17,287 people get $12 million worth of free medications.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, sponsored both pieces of prescription drug legislation.

Donoghue also had three other health care bills tentatively approved by the House on Wednesday. Those bills would:

  • Change regulations to encourage dentists to specialize in pediatric dentistry. There's a scarcity of the specialty statewide.

  • Standardize the license requirements for dentists and dental hygienists.

  • Create a pilot program in Allegany County to tap into a federal grant for rural health care access.
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