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House supports continued funds for MedBank

March 25, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS - The House of Delegates on Thursday unanimously approved a bill to provide ongoing funding for MedBank of Maryland, a state-administered prescription drug program that provides millions of dollars worth of medications for low-income residents every year.

The bill, sponsored by Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, will allow a portion of federal Medicare funds allocated to Maryland to be used to keep MedBank going despite cuts in state funding.

By keeping a state prescription drug program after Medicare Part D becomes effective next year, Maryland is eligible for $17 million in federal funds. Donoghue's bill will direct $800,000 of that money to go into MedBank during fiscal year 2006, and $1 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2007.

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MedBank began in Hagerstown in 2001 as a pilot program of the state's Senior Prescription Drug Program. It was slated to end June 30, 2006.

Since its inception, MedBank has provided $65 million in free medications to more than 30,000 Marylanders, Donoghue said.

Each year, some 10,000 state residents benefit from MedBank, he said, including more than 1,100 in Washington County. Last year, MedBank provided $3 million in prescription drugs to Washington County clients.

Through MedBank, pharmacies send prescription drugs directly to the agency, which then distributes them directly to doctors.

Donoghue's bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

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