Friday, September 06, 2002

Drug plan sought for Boone County

Commissioner likes Lt. Gov.'s initiative to help uninsured

By Patrick Crowley,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BURLINGTON — Uninsured Boone County residents may have access to free or reduced-cost prescriptions under a program proposed by County Commissioner Tim Hamilton.

        Mr. Hamilton, a Florence Democrat, wants the county to participate in the Kentucky Prescription Drug Assistance Program,which was developed by Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, an orthopedic surgeon.“Many pharmaceutical companies offer free or discounted drugs to people who are uninsured and don't have the means to purchase drugs,” said Mr. Hamilton, who is running for reelection in November.

        “But a lot of people, and even some health care providers, don't know the drugs are available. This program will work to get the drugs to the people that need them but can't get them because they don't have insurance or can't afford the prescriptions.”

        Mr. Henry, during a visit to Northern Kentucky Thursday, said the program is needed “because the state has not moved effectively to solve this problem, so we're taking it to the local level because it isn't getting done in Frankfort.”

        Rather than going the legislative or administrative routes — where support for funding the program is lacking -- Mr. Henry is trying to help local governments get the program started in counties around the state.

        Later this month Mr. Hamilton intends to formally propose the fiscal court allocate $58,000 to pay the salary of a program coordinator and the program's administrative costs for one year.

        The coordinator would be trained to assist patients and their physicians in gaining access to the free and reduced prescriptions available from drug companies. The coordinator would meet with a patient, find out what prescription they have been given by their doctor, conduct an eligibility screening and then assist the patient with an application.

        To be eligible the patient must:

        • Be a U.S. citizen and in the case of the Boone County program, a resident of the county.

        • Have no form of prescription drug insurance, including Medicaid and the state's K-CHIP health program.

        • Require long-term medication.

        • Prove a financial need.

        Mr. Hamilton said an estimated 10,000 people in Boone County do not have health insurance and could be eligible for the program. He would eventually like to see the program expanded to Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties, where he said as many as 40,000 people could take advantage of the program, which would be administered by the Northern Kentucky Independent Health District.

        Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore said he is “open-minded” about any program that would help people with access to reduced or free prescriptions.

        “I need more details but it's something we should take a look at,” Mr. Moore said.

        Mr. Henry said more people could take advantage of the free and reduced drugs if they knew about it.

        Mr. Henry, who next year plans to seek the Democrat's gubernatorial nomination, said one of Kentucky's 120 counties, Anderson County south of Frankfort, has already started the program.

        According to his office, five other counties have committed to the program; five other counties want to begin the program but have not yet funded it; and 17 counties are considering it, including Pendleton and Campbell counties.

        Anderson County Health Administrator John Williams said the program was just started a few weeks ago and that only a “handful” of residents are using it so far.

        “But I think it is going to be a very, very good program,” Mr. Williams said Thursday.

        “People don't know about it, so we're trying to get the word out to the medical community that it exists.”


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