CNHI News Service

OKLAHOMA CITY ? Medicaid prescription drug payments have grown more slowly in Oklahoma than nationally in the past 10 years.

According to data presented before a House task force aimed to spot Medicaid waste, fraud and abuse, payments remain less than $1,000 per enrollee in the state, but have soared past $1,700 in the country.

The task force, led by Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, met Wednesday at the state Capitol after making stops in Stillwater and Enid. Members will continue touring the state next week.

"It's absolutely going to be a point of reform," Steele said of pharmaceuticals.

For each prescription, costs have increased more than 20 percent since 2001. Prescription drugs make up 17 percent of Medicaid spending, paying out $171 per user each month.

Prescription limits are one way to control costs.

Adults on Medicaid are now limited to six prescription drugs per month. No more than three of them can bear brand names. In some cases, patients can only get generic equivalents under Medicaid.

Other limits on quantities and reimbursement amounts are intended to stem the growth of cost burden.

And patents are expiring on some common medications like Prozac, Paxil and Prilosec. This is expected to create more competition to produce the pharmaceuticals or generic equivalents.

And Steele said "drug seekers" sometimes go from doctor to doctor and pharmacy to pharmacy in search of prescription medications.

Lynn Mitchell, state Medicaid director, said limits can be imposed to prevent drug seekers abusing the system.

"We can actually lock them into one pharmacy or one doctor," Mitchell said.

Some costs of care given under Medicaid are shifted on the backs of insured patients, said Anne Garcia, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority's chief financial officer.

More government payments could cover the burden health care providers face when caring for Medicaid patients, and help insured people pay only for what they collect, Garcia said.

Medicaid reimburses doctors and hospitals for care they deliver to eligible patients.

But doctor reimbursements have dropped in recent years from 76 percent of Medicare rates, facing budget pressures.

Luke Engan is CNHI Oklahoma reporter.

??Johnson Controls, York officials expect sale to be completed in December

By Randall Turk

Transcript Business Editor

York International Corporation, which has had a presence in Norman since 1981, is being purchased by Johnson Controls, Inc. for $3.2 billion.

In statements issued late Wednesday, chief executive officers of Johnson Controls and York said the deal will strengthen both companies, which manufacture complementary products marketed worldwide. If approved by federal regulators and York shareholders, the sale is expected to be completed in December.

York, with estimated sales of nearly $5 billion this year, is a global supplier of heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC--R) equipment. The Norman plant is York's worldwide unitary products headquarters, manufacturing residential and light commercial air conditioning systems. The plant accounted for about 18 percent of York's $4.5 billion in sales last year.

York and Johnson Controls are both Fortune 500 companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

In a letter sent to about 900 employees of the Norman plant, York CEO David Myers stressed the sale of the company to Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI) provides an opportunity for York to grow and develop a larger market share for its products:

"By joining forces with JCI, we are staking out a strategic leadership position in the $200 billion global building environment industry," the statement read. "As an $11 billion company, we will be better able to serve our customers with integrated HVAC--R solutions and services. The combined entity will have over 500 offices serving 125 countries around the globe."

The statement assured York employees their concerns about the coming transition in their jobs will be answered by "a series of communications and updates including meetings with your local leaders, webcasts with executives and regular updates posted to York's intranet."

York has 24,000 employees worldwide, with 26 manufacturing plants in nine countries. Management teams from York and JCI will work to integrate the two companies, Myers stated.

Johnson Controls, headquartered in Milwaukee, has 125,000 employees worldwide and revenues of $26.6 billion. The company manufactures integrated automotive seating and interior systems and batteries. It also makes control systems to regulate interior environment, energy usage and security in commercial buildings.

In the joint statement issued Wednesday, Johnson Controls Chairman and CEO John Barth called York "an ideal partner." The York buyout "will bring significant benefits to shareholders, customers and employees of both companies," Barth stated. "?The two companies are market leaders in North America and Europe, and have complementary operations in the faster growing regions of Asia (especially China), Central Europe, the Middle East and Latin America? Bringing together our two organizations will also create the largest building services force in the world, strongly positioning us to capture an increased share of the fragmented $130 billion global services market for commercial buildings."

York took over the 550,000-square-foot Norman manufacturing plant in 1981. The plant, occupying a 74-acre tract at U.S. Highway 77 and Franklin Road, was built and occupied by Westinghouse in late 1971. Westinghouse manufactured room size residential air conditioners in Norman, but sold the plant to York when demand diminished in that segment of the market.

York International was started in 1874 in York, Pa., to manufacture ice-making equipment.

Johnson Controls was founded in Milwaukee in1885 by Warren S. Johnson, inventor of the first electric room thermostat.

Randall Turk 366-3547 business@normantranscript.com

W ASHINGTON ? Sad yet riveting, like a wreck by the side of the road, Cindy Sheehan, a plaything of her own sincerities and other people's opportunisms, has already been largely erased from the national memory by new waves of media fickleness in the service of the public's summer ennui.

But before she becomes fully relegated to the role of opening act for more durable luminaries at anti-war rallies, prudent Democrats ? those political snail darters, the emblematic endangered species of American politics ? should consider the possibility that, although she was a burr under the president's saddle for several weeks, she is symptomatic of something that in 2008 could cause the Democratic Party a sixth loss in eight presidential elections. That something is a shrillness unlike anything heard, in living memory, from a major tendency within a major party.

Many warmhearted and mildly attentive Americans say the president should have invited Sheehan to his kitchen table in Crawford for a cup of coffee and a serving of that low-calorie staple of democratic sentimentality ? "dialogue." Well.

Since her first meeting with the president, she has called him a "lying bastard," "filth spewer," "evil maniac," "f?hrer" and the world's "biggest terrorist" who is committing "blatant genocide" and "waging a nuclear war" in Iraq. Even leaving aside her not entirely persuasive contention that someone else concocted the obviously anti-Israel and inferentially anti-Semitic elements of one of her recent e-mails ? elements of a sort nowadays often found woven into ferocious left-wing rhetoric ? it is difficult to imagine how the dialogue would get going.

He: "Cream and sugar?"

She: "Yes, please, filth spewer."

Do Democrats really want to embrace her variation of the Michael Moore and "Fahrenheit 9/11" school of political discourse? Evidently, yes, judging by the attendance of 12 Democratic senators at that movie's Washington premiere in June 2004, and by the lionizing of Moore at the Democratic Convention ? the ovation, the seating of him with Jimmy Carter.

If liberals think that such flirtations with fanaticism had nothing to do with their 2004 defeat, they probably have nothing to learn from what conservatives did four decades earlier. But for the record:

In the 1960s, just as conservatism was beginning to grow from a fringe tendency into what it has become ? the nation's most potent persuasion ? it was threatened by a boarding party of people not much, if any, loonier than Sheehan. The John Birch Society, whose catechism included the novel tenet that Dwight Eisenhower was an agent of the Kremlin, was not numerous ? its membership probably never numbered more than 100,000 ? but its power to taint all of conservatism was huge, particularly given the media's eagerness to abet the tainting. Responsible conservatives, especially William F. Buckley and his National Review, repelled the boarders, driving them into the dark cave where, today, they ferociously guard the secret of their size from a nation no longer curious about it.

MoveOn.org, which claims 3.3 million members and is becoming a tone-setting tail that wags the Democratic Party dog that is mostly such tails, adopted Sheehan during her Crawford demonstration, organizing 1,627 vigils around the country to express solidarity with her. But the Democratic Party, whose democratically elected chairman is Howard ("I Hate the Republicans and Everything They Stand For") Dean, is not ripe for lessons in temperate rhetoric, which may be why the Republican Party has far fewer worries than it deserves.

It is showing signs of becoming an exhausted volcano. Regarding Iraq, it is mistaking truculent asperity and tiresome repetition for Churchillian wartime eloquence. Regarding domestic policy, intellectual anemia has given rise to behavioral patterns not easily distinguished from corruption, as with the energy and transportation bills. Yet the Democratic Party, which by now can hardly remember the far-distant past when it was a volcano not of molten rhetoric but of serious thought, seems preoccupied with the chafing around its neck. The chafing is caused by the leashes firmly gripped and impudently jerked by various groups like MoveOn.org that insist the party adopt hysteria as a policy by treating the Supreme Court nomination of John Roberts as a dire threat to liberty.

If Hillary Clinton has half the political sense her enthusiasts ascribe to her, she must be deeply anxious lest all her ongoing attempts to adopt moderation as her brand will be nullified by the increasing inclination of her party's base to succumb to siren songs sung by the likes of Sheehan. But, then, a rapidly growing portion of the base is not just succumbing to those songs, it is singing them.

George Will writes for the Washington Post Writers Group. His e-mail address is georgewill@washpost.com.

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