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Regulators Approve Maine Drug Plan

January 20, 2001

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ A state program providing discounts of about 25 percent to as many as 225,000 people without prescription drug insurance has been approved by federal regulators.

The Maine Prescription Drug Discount Program, to start in July, would be open to people with income up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $25,000 for a single person and $33,750 for a couple.

``We applaud the state for its innovative approach to providing seniors and others with access to discounted drug prices enjoyed by Medicaid and other large purchasers of pharmaceuticals,″ said Tim Westmoreland, of the Health Care Financing Administration, on Friday.

``Expanded access to medically necessary drugs will make it much more likely that this category of individuals will be healthier and potentially able to remain not eligible for Medicaid,″ the federal agency said in approving the plan.

Maine’s initiative requires no state or federal tax money and mirrors a Vermont measure approved in November.

Maine officials said the program offers price discounts similar to those envisioned under a plan enacted last year to help about 325,000 residents obtain prescription drugs more cheaply. The Maine Rx Program foundered under a court challenge brought by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

But litigation pitting the industry against states is expected to continue.

On Wednesday, a federal judge refused to halt Vermont’s initiative pending a trial.

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