Municipal Bulletin Board
(from the June 2009 Maine Townsman)

Prescription Discounts to Residents

A program introduced by the National League of Cities (NLC) in November 2008 is helping municipalities around the country provide a benefit to their residents faced with the high cost of prescription drugs.

The NLC Prescription Discount Card program is designed to enable a participating municipalities to help residents who are without health insurance, a traditional pharmacy benefit plan or have prescriptions not covered by insurance by providing an average of 20 to 25 percent off the full retail cost of prescription medication.

There are currently more than 200 municipalities participating in the program nationwide, from St. Agatha, Maine (pop: 802) to San Jose, Calif. (pop: 900,000+).

There is no direct cost to participate in the program. However, membership in the National League of Cities is required. NLC offers several “introductory” membership plans featuring one or two year discounts of 15 percent or 35 percent, respectively.

The program is administered for NLC by CVS Caremark and includes nearly 60,000 participating pharmacies nationwide, including all major chains and most local pharmacies.

Each month, after the program is implemented, participating cities receive a report from NLC on the use of the discount card so the city can see the direct impact of the program on helping its residents.

The role of the city is to promote the program through the local media and to make the prescription discount cards available at locations throughout the city to those residents who might benefit from the program. The city is provided with a quantity of customized prescription discount cards with the city name and logo at no cost, along with sample marketing materials to promote the program.

For more information on the NLC Prescription Discount Card Program, contact Marc Shapiro at 202.626.3019 or shapiro@nlc.org or visit the NLC website: www.nlc.org/prescriptioncard

For NLC membership information, contact Mae Davis, 202.626.3150 or mdavis@nlc.org.

BLEAK STATE BUDGETS

Even if the national recession ends this year as many predict, state budgets will likely be in the red for the next two years, with budget gaps topping $230 billion as tax collections of sales, personal and corporate income lag, two new reports show.

More than half the states reported that revenues from every major tax source, through April, were below last year’s collections, the National Conference of State Legislatures said in a report released June 3.

Some of the revenue drops are eye-popping. For April, which is the significant month for personal income tax collections, NCSL found that collections were more than 40 percent below the prior year’s level in Connecticut, Massachusetts and North Carolina, 43 percent in Michigan and 44 percent in Arizona.

With company profits down and recession-weary Americans buying less, revenues fell well below expectations in 38 states in 2009, the National Association of State Budget Officers and National Governors Association said in their latest joint report released June 4. NASBO Executive Director Scott D. Pattison said the revenues were below “even the most pessimistic forecasts.”  

Coping with the shortfalls, half of the states cut funding to schools, health care for the poor and correction programs to close $46 billion in budget gaps in 2009, NASBO and NGA said.

Even with the billions of federal stimulus dollars flowing to states, all but nine had budget gaps for fiscal 2009, and 37 are reporting shortfalls for the new budget that begins July 1 for most states, according to the NASBO report that puts total state deficits at $230 billion between fiscal 2009 and 2011.

NCSL estimates that states will confront deficits totaling $236 billion from fiscal 2008 through 2010 with at least $45 billion looming in 2011. “The national recession is pummeling state revenues,” NCSL said in its report.

The state fiscal reports come as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke sounded cautiously optimistic that the U.S. recession would end this year in his testimony before Congress June 3. “We continue to expect overall economic activity to bottom out, and then to turn up later this year,” he said in his remarks.

But state fiscal conditions historically lag behind national economic recovery. The year after a recession ends is typically when state budgets are hit hardest. That’s because by then, Medicaid rolls have swelled as more individuals become unemployed and lose their health insurance.

To balance their 2009 budgets, states targeted certain programs: 26 states reduced funds for elementary schools, 31 cut higher education, 22 cut public assistance, 25 cut both Medicaid and corrections, 15 cut transportation and 25 cut personnel, NASBO and NGA said.

Looking to the 2010 budget year that begins July 1 for all but four states, 27 states proposed cutting elementary school funding, 28 cut higher education, 23 cut public assistance, 25 targeted both Medicaid and corrections, 19 cut transportation and 28 cut personnel, according to NASBO and NGA. (By Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer, Stateline.org, published June 4, 2009)