April 11, 2000
Budget Conference Subcommittee Meetings April 11, 2000
General Budget Conference Committee
The General Budget Conference committee met late Tuesday afternoon and announced that the working subcommittees will be given one more day that is, until Wednesday evening to resolve their differences.
Overview: At Tuesday morning's meeting, Senator Hannon and Assemblyman Gottfried announced agreement on the expansion of the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program. This had been identified in earlier meetings as the single biggest hurdle to joint agreement on how to allocate the committee's total pot of $105 million.
The EPIC expansion has two components: 1) reduced co-pays and premiums for people already on the program, and 2) raising the income limitability to $35,000 for single and $50,000 for couples. In three years the committees expect 100,000 more people to have access to the program, doubling its current size. The first-year cost was estimated at $55 million; annual cost by the third year is estimated at $180 million.
Assemblyman Gottfried hailed this as "the single most important budget news this year." Senator Hannon called it "the hallmark of the Senate's health budget." Senator Marchi commented on the high cost of prescription drugs comparing the costs in the U.S. to costs in Canada, Spain and Mexico. He said a bill similar to his price control bill is being introduced throughout New England and California. He said he had a commitment from Majority Leader Bruno to take a look at some of the studies that have been produced on this issue.