Debate continues on ‘lifestyle’ medication subsidization

By Chris Jackett
Sunday Times Newspapers

RIVERVIEW – The city’s debate over eliminating subsidization of certain prescription drugs could be resolved at the Oct. 11 City Council meeting.

Members could not agree Aug. 16 on a proposal to eliminate city payments for several “lifestyle” and “cosmetic” drugs from active administrator, technical/professional and retiree benefit groups. The council instructed Human Resources Director John Hajkus to investigate further the effects of such an elimination, and he said the discussion should resume at next week’s meeting.

“The original plan was to eliminate all lifestyle drugs on that list. It was an all-or-nothing vote,” Hajkus said. “When it got called for a vote, one member said, “Why not infertility medication and (human growth hormones)?”

Growth hormones, erectile dysfunction medications, hair loss and removal agents, age-related wrinkle agents, depigmenting agents and infertility medications all are included on the list.

Councilwoman Betty Priskorn debated removing HGH and infertility medications, which was supported in both conversation and vote by Councilmen Andrew Swift and James Trombley.

Mayor Tim Durand and Councilmen Thomas Coffey and Elmer Trombley had voted to approve the elimination. With Councilwoman Lynn Blanchette absent, there was no tie-breaking vote.

“We had one member who wasn’t there,” Hajkus said. “We’re going to take a third shot at it Oct. 11.”

An amended proposal (the second shot) without HGH and infertility medication then was voted on at the Aug. 16 meeting, but also was stuck on a 3-3 vote. However, the three who supported the first proposal voted against the second one, and vice versa.

“I don’t know, I’m not a politician,” Hajkus said when asked about why the second resolution regarding HGH and infertility medications wasn’t approved and amended later. “I see our drug costs. We get billed every two weeks. It’s very expensive.”

Hajkus said infertility medication would cost the city $50,000 per year for each person using it.

“We don’t have anybody on it. If we eliminate those two, it’s not going to hurt anybody, because nobody is currently taking it,” Hajkus said. “Those items, in particular, are expensive. Other Downriver communities have stopped paying for this years ago.”

Because of the employee group the resolution is targeting, it is even less likely that city officials would need to purchase such drugs.

“The ban is for active nonunion employees and retirees,” Hajkus said. “Are you going to have a 50-year-old woman taking infertility medication? Probably not. Are you going to have a 60-year-old man taking HGH? Probably not.”

Hajkus said the group most affected would be at the administrative level, such as current department heads, who range in age from 37 to 62.

“We’re not doing anything to hurt people,” Hajkus said. “We’re doing this to contain present costs.”