Part of the Gov. Tom Corbett's Medicaid plan includes health care policy changes that remain in the hands of the state Legislature, including one bill supporters say would reduce prescription drug abuse.
The governor called on state lawmakers to expand the state's medication tracking database. The current system monitors only certain drugs, and law enforcement alone has access to the information.
A bill before the state House would expand the database to track all controlled substances. It would also let doctors and pharmacists check the database.
Richard Schott, a Delaware County cardiologist and president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, said greater access to patients' medication histories will make it easier for both prescribers and dispensers of medication to judge whether patients are likely to abuse their requested medication.
"Doctors in their office and especially in emergency departments are confronted with patients that may not be legitimate," Schott said. "A pill-scamming person learns very quickly the right things to say and how to get a prescription for whatever narcotic-type drug that they're seeking."
Civil liberties advocates oppose the expanded database, concerned that information of "innocent" Pennsylvanians will be subject to monitoring.
Schott points out that all Pennsylvania's neighboring states have such systems, funneling so-called scammers to the commonwealth's doctors and pharmacies because the rules here aren't as strict.
"A major proportion of our population lives close to the border, and they travel — health care systems do not know the physical borders of our state — so they quickly learn that it's easy to scam drugs from docs in Pennsylvania," he said.