Medicaid patients dependent on multiple medications still can have their prescriptions filled. The Department of Health has decided against a plan set to begin Feb. 1 that would limit Medicaid recipients to eight prescriptions per month. LDH originally intended for the plan to make necessary reductions in its budget but retracted it after hearing from several concerned citizens.

Department of Health Secretary David W. Hood said a similar plan allowing only eight prescriptions a month may begin in March. However, under that plan, doctors would have the option of overriding a prescription limit for patients who are dependent on multiple prescriptions.

"The health of our Medicaid patients is a very important priority for the department," Hood said. "Although we must make budget reductions, we are searching for the best solution that will allow us to place a prescription limit without in any way endangering or lessening the quality of life for anyone covered under Medicaid."

Under the current plan, Medicaid patients receive unlimited prescriptions and account for 12 million prescriptions annually. If the new plan started, patients in need of more than eight prescriptions a month would have to find free samples, appeal to pharmacy companies for free prescriptions or pay for the drugs out of pocket.

Hood added that Medicaid patients in Louisiana use nearly 50 percent more prescriptions than the nationwide average. "This is because many states set very strict limits on prescription medications," he said. "For example, Arkansas and Texas both only allow Medicaid recipients three prescriptions per month."

However, under the proposed plan, people younger than 21, long-term care facility residents, pregnant women, people with HIV and AIDS and organ transplant recipients on anti-rejection medications still would receive unlimited prescriptions.
State official still are working on a new plan, as the department must make budget cuts to avoid a deficit for the fiscal year 2003.