City employees’ prescription coverage may change

By CHRIS JACKETT
Sunday Times Newspapers

RIVERVIEW – The city is looking to improve its annual budget through modifying its subsidization of prescription drugs for city staff, but medical marijuana won’t be involved with the change.

Community Development Director Dave Scurto said the city briefly looked at allowing medical marijuana use within its boundaries, but that the City Council is in consensus agreement not to allow it. Medical marijuana is legal by state law, but illegal by federal law.

“Right now, the federal law prohibits the use of marijuana,” Scurto said. “The direction of council is to go with the federal law. There’s really no substantive changes.”

Scurto said other cities such as Southgate, Livonia, Ypsilanti, Royal Oak and Troy are debating allowing medical use and have come to varying decisions.

“The only way we would find out if anyone had (any marijuana) is if the police pull someone over and they have it on them,” Scurto said. “The growth of medical marijuana plants was approved by the state in 2008.”

Although marijuana for medical use will be prohibited throughout city, the council also is looking at legally prescribed “lifestyle” and “cosmetic” drugs as a means of cost savings among city employees. Such drugs include prescription-based remedies for erectile dysfunction, wrinkles, hair growth, infertility, depigmentating agents and growth hormones.

“Drugs are expensive, very expensive, and the average employee doesn’t know the true cost,” said John Hajkus, Riverview’s human resources director. “To save money and preserve jobs, that’s what it’s all about. You don’t want
to regulate what goes on in the bedroom.”

Hajkus said there were four layoffs recently, including three full-time Department of Public Works employees on June 25 and a part-time Parks and Recreation employee on July 1.

“If you go to the drug store and get a prescription, you pay your co-pay of $20 or $30 or whatever it is and you walk out of there with your drug,” Hajkus said. “On the back side, the city could pay several hundred dollars.”

The council has been looking at ending its subsidization of lifestyle and cosmetic drugs.

“They were in favor a week ago, but they wanted to know about who’s on human growth hormones, how much it costs, etc.,” Hajkus said. “I can say five employees filled out prescriptions for human growth hormones, but I can’t say who got it because of HIPAA laws.”

If the city stops paying for employees’ lifestyle and cosmetic drugs, it could save the city much-needed funds to maintain other programs. Hajkus said he is still looking into what the total savings would be for the city, but said it would be enough that the council strongly is considering approving the proposal at an upcoming meeting.

Drugs to increase fertility also fall under the city’s definition of lifestyle drugs, he said.

“Infertility agents have an average annual cost of between $5,000 to $20,000, and growth hormone treatments/medications have an average annual cost of $15,000 to $50,000,” Hajkus said. “These amounts are what would be charged to the city. Erectile dysfunction drugs average between $15 and $20 per pill.”

(Contact Chris Jackett at cjackett@bewickpublications.com)

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