State AG ties prescription drug monitoring to Medicaid savings

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna (R-Wash.) said Wednesday that national monitoring of drug prescriptions could stymie fraud and abuse in the Medicaid program, potentially adding momentum to congressional efforts in that direction.

McKenna told fellow AGs gathered for the spring meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General that almost half of prescription drug overdose victims in his state are on Medicaid. McKenna, the association's president-elect, also pointed to a 2009 federal government report that found 65,000 instances of Medicaid beneficiaries in five states improperly obtaining drugs, at a cost of $65 million.

"It would make a lot of sense to create a national database that would respect privacy ... but that would prevent doctor-shopping across state lines," McKenna told The Hill after his presentation. "The states are just now beginning to figure out how to tie their own prescription monitoring databases together. If you could do it nationally — in a way that doesn't create huge unfunded mandates for the states of course — it would make a lot of sense."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has crafted legislation that would provide $25 million per year to establish state-based prescription drug monitoring programs so states can share information with each other. The bill would also create a national database of prescription drug deaths.

McKenna said he hadn't seen Rockefeller's bill and so couldn't comment directly. But he said Medicaid is a shared responsibility between the federal government and the states because they share the cost, and it is sensible for them to work together to prevent fraud in the program.

"We all support the idea of centralized monitoring to prevent doctor-shopping and prescriber abuse," he said.