‘Bugs’ in New Massachusetts Online Prescription System for Medicaid Beneficiaries ‘Anger’ Pharmacists
A new computer system for Massachusetts' online prescription-filling program for Medicaid beneficiaries "virtually collapsed during its first days of operation" in December, "snarling" authorization for medication and "angering" pharmacists, AP/CNN.com reports. Paul Jeffrey, director of pharmacy for the Massachusetts Division of Medical Assistance, which administers the state's Medicaid program, acknowledged the problems related to the state's transition to the new computer system, which is run by Affiliated Computer Services. Affiliated recently took over the $15 million, two-year contract to administer the prescription-filling program from Unisys, which had received "frequent complaints" from pharmacists. The system allows pharmacists to receive online approval for Medicaid beneficiaries' prescriptions. Although the state has addressed the "most serious bugs" in the new computer system, during the week of Dec. 17, the system denied "scores of requests" for authorization of medications. Although no Medicaid beneficiary went without a prescribed medication, a number of "frustrated" pharmacists, who said that the system denied "virtually every" request for a prescription, "overwhelmed" the program's toll-free help lines. Jeffrey said that the system as run by Affiliated denied about 45% of prescriptions during the week of Dec. 17, compared with the 20% "typically rejected," which require reauthorization or "some other remedy." The program handles about 16 million prescriptions per year. Jeffrey said that the problems resulted from "more rigid" software in the new system that "sometimes classified generic drugs as more expensive brand-name drugs," which do not qualify for reimbursement. "I think we have all the problems identified, and have a solution in place or a solution planned," Jeffrey said (AP/CNN.com, 1/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.