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Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015

State Capitol Week in Review

Thursday, October 7, 2004

The state Medicaid program has proposed a new method of buying prescription drugs in an attempt to hold down costs.

Medicaid is a government health program for the elderly, the poor and people with disabilities. Medicaid pays for 75 percent of all nursing home care in Arkansas.

Last year the Arkansas Medicaid program spent $368 million on prescription drugs, an increase of almost 18 percent over the previous year. Arkansas officials want to take advantage of a method used by 11 other states to hold down drug costs. They require physicians treating Medicaid patients to prescribe drugs from a Preferred Drug List. The list is based on the effectiveness and the price of the drugs.

Researchers compare the effectiveness of various drugs and list them according to their price. If several drugs are equally effective, Medicaid would require health care providers to prescribe the cheapest one. A physician could prescribe a drug that is not on the list, but would have to receive authorization.

If a particular brand of drug is more effective than other brands, it would be on the list regardless of its cost, unless the price is "outrageous," a Medicaid official said.

The School of Pharmacy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences would develop the Preferred Drug List. The state Department of Human Services administers Medicaid and has held a public hearing on the proposal. Spokesmen for pharmaceutical manufacturing companies expressed opposition. Representatives of senior citizens groups expressed support.

The proposal to establish a Preferred Drug List, also known as an evidence based prescription drug program, is on the agenda for consideration by the Legislative Council's Subcommittee on Rules and Regulations. Also, the Legislature's Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Subcommittee will consider a contract for the Pharmacy School at UAMS to compile the list.

The total state Medicaid budget this fiscal year is more than $3 billion. The federal government provides about 75 percent of those funds and state government provides the remaining 25 percent. Last year more than 645,000 Arkansans received some form of care that was paid for by Medicaid.

Advance Placement Tests

More Arkansas high school students are taking advanced placement courses and scoring well on AP tests, according to the organization that administers them.

This year 6,021 public school students took a total of 10,051 advanced placement tests. The tests are graded from one to five, and 4,279 Arkansas high school students scored at least a three, which means they earned a full or a partial college credit.

The good news is that more students are taking AP classes and the AP tests. Last year, 4,679 public school students took a total of 7,687 AP tests and 3,582 scored a three or better.

The most common AP tests taken this year were English language, composition, United States history, and English literature.