In a ruling that could hamper states' ability to reduce Medicaid drug costs, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington has struck down a Maine program to help low-income state residents afford prescription medication. Healthy Maine Prescriptions, which went into effect in June 2001, required drug manufacturers to provide discounts on their products that would enable Maine's low-income population to obtain prescribed drugs at Medicaid rates. A three-judge panel on the appeals court said Maine's program, which currently assists some 110,000 people, amounts to an illegal expansion of Medicaid because it requires participation from private-sector companies and none from the federal or state government. In February a district court judge ruled in favor of the program following the pharmaceutical industry's challenge; it was not clear at deadline if state officials plan to appeal the latest ruling. In January the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on another controversial drug program called Maine Rx, which allows the state to negotiate with drug companies to reduce prices and authorizes price controls if such efforts fail. Similar approaches are increasingly popular across the country as cash-strapped states attempt to rein in drug spending. -- by Jeff Tieman
Court of Appeals strikes down Healthy Maine program
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