Senior Rx expansion approved by joint committee |

Senior Rx expansion approved by joint committee

Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

Lawmakers voted Thursday to expand the Senior Rx program, which helps low-income seniors pay for prescription drugs.

At the same time, they cut more than $2 million in general fund money from the program, betting that participant premiums won’t increase significantly in the next two years.

Senior Rx is funded primarily by tobacco-settlement money and provides prescription drug insurance for 7,500 participants. Gov. Kenny Guinn proposed increasing the program to handle 12,160 participants over the next two years. He proposed increasing the income cutoff to allow more two-income senior families to qualify.

But, to do so, he had to augment the tobacco-settlement revenue that covers most of the cost with general fund money.

Members of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees decided Thursday they may be able to serve the full 12,160 seniors while cutting general fund spending because the premium rate is nearly $20 a month less per participant under a new service contract.

The budget was built on $82.71 per participant per month but the new contract costs just $66.50.

Staff analysts advised lawmakers there is enough money in the tobacco settlement portion of the budget to cover 9,328 participants. It will still cost the state $2.6 million over the next two years to cover 12,160 people.

But Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas, pointed out that will reduce the general fund money needed by $2.15 million.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, recommended taking the money as savings saying that, if premium costs rise significantly over the next two years, Senior Rx managers can go to the Interim Finance Committee to get some of that money back.