State announces new Medicaid program expected to save $2.4 million

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Pharmacies will get incentives for curbing unnecessary distribution of prescription drugs to Medicaid patients, under a program the state says will save $2.4 million this budget year.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announced the voluntary program Monday. Thirty-one long-term care pharmacies in Ohio that are eligible to participate have signed up.

The state currently reimburses pharmacies serving Medicaid patients in nursing homes or other institutions according to how much medicine they dole out to those patients.

Under the new program, pharmacies that seek out ways to limit how much unnecessary medicine is given to Medicaid patients will get 50 percent of the amount of money the state saves by not having to pay for that medication.

"Presently, there's really not much incentive for the pharmacy to do anything other than fill the prescription," said Robyn Colby, chief of health plan policy in the department's Office of Ohio Health Plans. "But, the pharmacy also has the ability to look at a variety of other things that will be cost-effective alternatives to drugs."

After two years, the state will reevaluate the program to determine if it is worth continuing, Colby said.

"We know it's not a permanent solution to the rising costs of prescription drugs, but it was our first attempt to reward outcome-based behavior by our pharmacies," she said.

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