California is quietly plowing ahead on plans by Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, to create a statewide bulk purchasing system for prescription drugs — and to transition pharmacy services for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, from managed care to fee-for-service (FFS) by January 2021, AIS Health reported.

In the latest development related to the initiatives, Los Angeles County tentatively has agreed “to sit at the same bargaining table” with Newsom’s administration to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers, the Los Angeles Times reported April 17.

The California Association of Health Plans (CAHP) says its main concerns relate to ongoing work on the Medi-Cal pharmacy services “carve-out.”

In its April 5 report, the state Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) says the state’s Medicaid pharmacy carve out plan likely will generate net savings to the state. But it notes many details have yet to be released concerning how the carve out will be implemented and how the administration believes it will affect Medi-Cal spending and stakeholders. Thus, the LAO recommends that “the Legislature withhold approval of future new state operations resources to implement the carve out until the administration provides key information that adequately answers major outstanding questions.”

According to CAHP spokesperson Mary Ellen Grant, the LAO report “says the state may save money [by shifting Medi-Cal’s pharmacy benefit from managed care to FFS], but there are a lot of trade-offs and even the savings are uncertain.”

She notes that analyses by The Menges Group and other researchers have found transitioning the drug benefit back to FFS would be costly to state Medicaid programs.