Guinn's senior citizen drug plan lagging

CARSON CITY - Gov. Kenny Guinn's much-touted prescription drug program for low-income senior citizens is off to a slow start.

After one month of enrollment, about 300 people have signed up, the state Department of Human Resources says.

The agency estimates that 10,000 to 11,000 seniors may be eligible for the program that provides a subsidy of up to $40 a month for an insurance policy that will pay part of the cost of the drugs.

''We were a little late in getting started,'' said Jane Smedes, who is overseeing the program. But she added applications now ''are starting to come in like crazy.''

Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said it's too early to tell why so few people are taking advantage of the program.

''It's probably either because senior citizens have not learned of the program or because the program design is so flawed that people are choosing not to take advantage of it,'' said Buckley, who will be majority floor leader in the Assembly in the 2001 session.

The Guinn administration signed a $5 million contract with Fidelity Security Life Insurance Co. of Kansas City, Mo. The state will pay a subsidy of up to $40 a month for a senior citizen based on income. For instance, those who earn $13,000 a year or less will be eligible for the full amount.

For the basic pharmacy coverage, there is a $100 deductible a year for each member. The plan calls for a monthly premium of $74.76, from which the person's subsidy is deducted. So an individual who receives the $40-a-month maximum subsidy would pay $34 a month for coverage.

There is also a $10 co-payment for each prescription of a generic drug under the basic plan.


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