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New state prescription drug program to help students

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Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus helped usher in a new era in Oregon health care on Dec. 7 as it hosted the official launch of the expanded Oregon Prescription Drug Program. Representatives from AARP, the Urban League of Portland and the PCC student body association, among others, were on hand to celebrate the occasion.

Attendees were invited to sign up for the program, which helps Oregonians without health insurance receive up to a 60 percent discount on prescription drugs. The program, which had previously been restricted to seniors with limited incomes, was expanded to include all uninsured Oregonians with the passage of Ballot Measure 44 in the November general election.

“Cascade Campus is the perfect setting for today’s events because, like many of the people who will benefit from the expansion of the Oregon Prescription Drug Program, many in our community have been underserved and under-represented for too long,” said Algie Gatewood, Cascade Campus president. “Many of our students face economic and social challenges every day of their lives.”

Gatewood went on to relate a story of a student who had approached him the previous day for advice on pursuing her education. He says she had dropped out of high school so she could care for her mother, who is suffering from multiple sclerosis.

“Reducing the cost of care for her mother is essential to this student’s future success,” Gatewood said. “If you want to know who will benefit from this program — the answer is people like her.”

The program is able to reduce the cost it pays for prescription drugs by negotiating a bulk rate on behalf of its participants, a group that has increased by more than 1 million members since the passage of Measure 44.

This is in contrast to the federal Medicare Part D prescription drug program, which specifically forbids Medicare from negotiating for a bulk rate. And since the program doesn’t provide insurance, no additional taxpayer dollars were required to implement it.

In 2007, the program is set to join forces with a similar initiative in Washington state. The resulting pool of participants in both states will be able to negotiate an even greater discount on prescription drugs.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »