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September 15, 2003

Governor Directs Special Advocates to Report on Possible Cost Savings of Allowing State Health Plans to Reimburse Patients for Reimported Rx Drugs
Cong. Emanuel joins Governor for announcement

CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich was joined by Congressman Rahm Emanuel at a pharmacy on Chicago’s north side today as he announced a new directive instructing the Office of the Special Advocate to issue a report on potential cost savings to the state if health plans allowed state employees and retirees to purchase prescription drugs from Canada.


“The skyrocketing cost of prescription medications is a huge burden for consumers and for taxpayers who help pay for state employees’ health costs.  Anything we can do that safely and effectively reduces those costs is definitely worth looking into,” said Blagojevich.


Illinois joins other states and local governments, including California and Springfield, MA, that have taken action on the issue.


If the state of Illinois health provider plans are renegotiated, it will be similar to what occurred when AARP and UnitedHealth Group announced in October 2002 that the 97,000 individuals who are covered by a UnitedHealth drug benefit through AARP would be reimbursed for drugs they purchased from Canada or other countries. 


In July, Emanuel was part of a bipartisan coalition in the U.S. House of Representatives that passed a bill that would allow Americans to buy reimported prescription drugs at the same prices as other countries.


“I am proud to stand here today with Governor Blagojevich as he takes an important step toward reducing health care costs for state government employees, and saving money for all Illinois taxpayers,” Emanuel said.  “States like Illinois will lead the way to lowering drug costs for taxpayers and providing life-saving medications at affordable prices.” 


“The bill we passed in July in the House of Representatives, if it becomes law, will do much the same to help Americans afford their prescription drugs and save all taxpayers money” he continued.  “It is outrageous that the same drugs that we pay top dollar for in the United States cost so much less in Canada and Europe. 


In June, Blagojevich signed legislation that will make prescription drugs more affordable for Illinois’ senior citizens and the disabled by creating a program that combines the purchasing power of a drug discount club with that of state agencies that spend nearly $2 billion a year on drugs for state programs.  Illinois’ two Special Advocates – Scott McKibbin and Ram Kamath – are leveraging the state’s buying power to negotiate lower prices on prescription medications.


“This is another step in our ongoing effort to help save the state and the people of Illinois money on medications,” Blagojevich said.


The governor’s office expects the Illinois Special Advocate report on reimported drugs to be completed in 90 days.

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