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 Articles of Interest - Gongwer News Service, September 5, 2002


starMI Gongwer 9-5-02 State, Drug Companies Argue New Medicaid Drug Planstar

starMI Gongwer 9-5-02 Posthumus Sets Reading as Focus of School Planstar

starMI Gongwer 9-5-02 New Elementary & Middle School MEAP Scores Outstar


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The state has gone ahead with its new prescription drug plan for Medicaid fee-for-service recipients, but drug companies argued to the Court of Appeals Thursday that the system requiring pre-approval for certain drugs unless the manufacturers pay additional rebates to the state, is illegal.


In response, the state argued it had plenty of authority to implement the new program and that Ingham Circuit Judge Lawrence Glazer had been wrong to issue an injunction against the program.


In addition to the appropriations bill that outlined the new formulary system, the Department of Community Health also had authority under the state's Medicaid laws as well as under the laws creating the Elderly Prescription Insurance Program and the children's special services programs, said Assistant Attorney General Erica Marsden.


Given that authority, Ms. Marsden said the trial judge overstepped his authority in issuing the injunction to block the plan.


But Robert Marsac, attorney for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhARMA), said the authority to which Ms. Marsden referred allowed the state to seek the rebates provided in the federal Social Security Act, not the supplemental rebates the state has sought through the new program.


And he said the process under which the new program was created was unconstitutional because it gave the Legislature excessive veto power over an administrative program.   "Budgetary constraints do no justify an agency going outside the constitution, outside statutory authority," he said.


Ms. Marsden agreed that the provision allowing the Legislature to reject the formulary could be found unconstitutional, but she said that did not make the rest of the legislation unconstitutional.


Susan McParland, attorney for three patients with mental illnesses and four associations that represent such patients, who had intervened in the lawsuit, said the new formulary causes irreparable harm because in many cases it deprives mentally-ill persons of needed medications because those drugs are expensive and the manufacturers have not agreed to the state's supplemental rebates.


"In reality the process is daunting," Ms. McParland said of the preauthorization process.   And she said the process requires that patients first try and fail on drugs not requiring pre-approval before they can be approved for other medications.


"Mental health consumers are required to fail first and experience serious side effects 100 percent of the time," she said.


As most of the pre-approval process can be addressed over the telephone, "we're not talking about any sort of onerous prior authorization process," Ms. Marsden countered.


And she said failing on one of the listed drugs was only one of the criteria for authorization to use medication not on the state's list.   Other criteria included medical necessity and better interaction of the non-listed drug with other medications.


But she said those arguments should not have been raised in the trial court because Mr. Glazer had said he would not consider the motion for an injunction by the intervening plaintiffs, only by the drug companies.


And she said Mr. Glazer had no way to assess the effects of the program on patients because it was not yet in effect when he issued the injunction.


The appeals panel, Judges Jane Markey, Mark Cavanagh and retired Justice Robert Griffin, took the arguments under advisement for a later order.



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Citing an ability to read as the cornerstone of his education proposal, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick Posthumus outlined a larger policy that includes plans for an institute to recruit and train school principals, proposed tax changes to encourage private investors to build new buildings that schools could then lease, and state efforts to stamp out incompetence and corruption in any school district.


Speaking at a press conference at a Lansing elementary school, Mr. Posthumus said as the product of public schools he was an enthusiastic supporter of public schools and public school teachers.   "I would bet that Pam and I have spent more time at public schools," volunteering for different functions and meeting with teachers on their children's education "than all the other candidates for governor combined," he said.


But his proposal also calls for lifting the current cap on university-chartered charter schools-something that has eluded charter school supporters for several years even now with the support of the Michigan Education Association of a proposal that would expand some charter schools-and he rejected suggestions that expanded charter schools could be seen as a way of hurting school districts but recognizing options that parents want.


A statement from the Michigan Democratic Party criticized Mr. Posthumus for continuing to support charter schools despite recent national studies that indicate the schools have not kept pace with public schools.


A spokesperson for Mr. Posthumus' Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, Chris De Witt said, "It looks fairly familiar in many respects to what Granholm proposed a month ago."   He pointed to the emphasis on early childhood issues, and empowering parents as similar to the Democrat's proposal.   "If you look at our plan and their plan you see some similarities."  


At the Republican convention last month in Detroit the lieutenant governor said ensuring that all students can read by the time they are in the third grade would be the cornerstone of his education policy, and Thursday he repeated that, saying a focus on reading would lead his education budget and his efforts to get federal funding.


Now some 20 percent of children cannot read effectively by the time they reach the third grade, Mr. Posthumus said.


But he also said he was less interested in warning schools of consequences if students do not reach that goal.   Instead, those schools that meet that goal would have rewards that could include having some state regulations lifted on their operations.


Mr. Posthumus also said he would take action to root out corruption and incompetence in school management, just as the state did with the Detroit system, and he criticized Ms. Granholm for saying she opposed the takeover.   Since taking over the Detroit schools, a new chief executive has been able to institute changes in the schools, and Mr. Posthumus said the time is coming to return authority for the schools to the city, although he backed giving the power to name the school board and school superintendent to Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.


His proposal does not mean the state would run any schools that might be relieved of their current leadership, Mr. Posthumus, because "I don't know if the state could do it better."


Nor did he know if there are other schools that would require state intervention, he said.


Mr. Posthumus also employed the "tweak" word again, as he said Ms. Granholm would want to tweak the state's laws prohibiting teacher strikes and to require binding arbitration for teachers.   Binding arbitration would bankrupt some school districts, he said, and he said he would fight any effort to require binding arbitration for teachers or change the teacher strike law.


Mr. De Witt said, "He talks about supporting teachers, but considering his record in the legislature, and as part of the administration, the education community knows very well he has not been supportive of teachers.   This administration been kicking them left and right for 12 years."


Saying as well that good principals are needed to ensure quality schools, Mr. Posthumus said he would create a "Governor's Principals Academy," to help train principals and provide them with a resource for developing new administrative ideas.


Financing new construction and school renovations has been a major issue for schools, especially in older, poorer, urban districts, and Mr. Posthumus said he would attack the issue by encouraging changes in the tax codes that would allow companies and individuals to help build new school buildings that could then be leased back to school districts.   Eventually those districts could acquire ownership of the buildings once the lease was completed.


Corporations have looked at trying such an approach in Grand Rapids.


But Mr. De Witt said of the proposal, "Sure sounds like tweaking to me."



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More than half of the elementary and middle school students in the state are meeting state standards for mathematics and at least two-thirds are meeting state science standards, according to Michigan Educational Assessment Program results released Thursday.


The results for the 4th and 8th grade mathematics and 5th and 8th grade science tests were late in being released because they were new tests with new standards.   Treasury officials said the change also makes comparisons to previous years' tests impossible.


As with the high school test, the new science and math tests are scored on a four-point scale: exceeds state standards, meets state standards, at basic level or apprentice.   The previous tests used a three-point scale.


On the mathematics tests, 64.5 percent of students at least met state standards in fourth grade and 53.8 percent at least met state standards in 8th grade.   On the science test, 73.2 percent of 5th graders at least met the standards and 66.6 percent of 8th graders met the standards.


But only on the 8th grade mathematics test did the largest number, 29.4 percent, exceed state standards.   And on the 8th grade science test, only 14.8 percent exceeded state standards.


The 8th grade mathematics test also showed the lowest performance, with 23.6 percent scoring at the apprentice level.   On the 4th grade math test, only 10.4 percent scored in the lowest category, while 4.5 percent did on the 4th grade science and 12.6 percent did on 8th grade science.

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