SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Health officials say two Medicaid policy changes could save the state between $12 and $14 million dollars.

Utah is exploring joining a multi-state bulk prescription purchasing bloc being organized by Maine, which would open the door to negotiating deeper discounts.

Michael Diely, the state’s Medicaid director, said partnering with Maine is just one option, but it is preferred as more cost-effective than a purchasing pool through a private vendor.

Also, the department is drafting a preferred-drug list to encourage use of generic medications.

“It won’t be a fixed list, like a formulary. So if an individual needs a certain medication, we can grant an exception. But we believe a lot of expensive drugs are prescribed unnecessarily,” Sundwall said.

Pharmaceuticals comprise Utah’s fastest growing Medicaid expenditure, having more than doubled in five years to a projected $210 million in fiscal year 2005.

The health department has proposed a preferred drug list before. But the idea was shot down by Utah lawmakers who feared it would create delays for people who needed “off-list” drugs that must be preapproved by a doctor. But Walsh-McDonald says, “That’s no different than any other insurance program.”

He couldn’t say when the changes, which apply to all of Utah’s approximately 250,000 Medicaid recipients, will go into effect. The state’s total Medicaid budget is $1.4 billion.

The cost-cutting measures mirror recommendations championed by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, Utah’s former governor.

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