Officials seek to restore Medicare drug safety net

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medicareState government on Jan. 1 stopped covering emergency 30-day supplies of prescription drugs for seniors having difficulty obtaining medications under the new federal Medicare benefit. Before expiring, the program had covered 150 prescriptions per day, according to its supporters.

The state-sponsored Medicare Party D Safety Net program was enacted by the Legislature and signed by former governor Mitt Romney in December 2005 and lapsed on Dec. 31, 2006, after the House and Senate could not agree on an extension -- the Senate favored one, but it was dropped by the House in deliberations on an unrelated bill.

According to Health Care For All, an advocacy group that is pushing for the benefit's restoration, individuals are walking away from pharmacy counters without prescribed medications because they can't afford to pay for them.

While federal officials say they've addressed many problems associated with the rollout of the Medicare benefit, Health Care For All says problems persist. Legislation being pushed by state Senator Mark Montigny of New Bedford and state Representative Robert Correia of Fall River, both Democrats, would permanently establish the state safety net program.

A top aide to Montigny said yesterday that he hopes the bill will be one of the first on Governor Deval Patrick's desk this year.

Patrick, told about the legislation yesterday , asked that information be forwarded to his governmental affairs liaison. Later in the day, Patrick spokeswoman Cyndi Roy said: "It's definitely an issue we need to address."

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