Congress and the Bush administration have been awfully kind to the pharmaceutical industry in recent years. Now it's time for taxpayers to get a little something in return. Legislation expected to be introduced today by Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen would allow uninsured low- and moderate-income adults to buy drugs at Medicaid prices.
That's a reasonable idea, and it could make health care a little more affordable for as many as 400,000 Marylanders. Low-income adults currently pay top dollar for prescription drugs - if they can afford them at all. People covered by private insurance or by Medicaid don't have this problem, of course. But for Maryland's uninsured adults to qualify for Medicaid benefits, they have to earn less than 40 percent of the federal poverty level - $8,260 per year for the typical family of four.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signed into law a similar program in 2005, but the Bush administration declined to issue the necessary Medicaid waiver (as the administration declined similar programs in Maine, Vermont and Minnesota). It's still not entirely clear why. Drug manufacturers strenuously objected to the idea because it would cut into their profits, and they have considerable clout in the nation's capital.