California Officials, Pharmacists Address Confusion Related to Medicare Drug Benefit
Database errors and overloaded telephone lines for pharmacists and seniors attempting to verify new Medicare prescription drug coverage have created "a large amount of problems" in California, according to Stan Rosenstein, state deputy director of medical services, the Los Angeles Times reports. Rosenstein said the state is "significantly worried" about delays and confusion caused by the new benefit.
According to the Times, "[m]ost of those affected are low-income seniors and disabled people."
Many of the problems involve errors concerning drug plan eligibility and copayments. Rosenstein said one large pharmacy in the state reported a 40% error rate (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 1/7).
The Sacramento Bee reports that calls to Medicare or private companies that provide verification of coverage require callers to hold for hours, are unanswered or are disconnected (Chavez, Sacramento Bee, 1/7). Meanwhile, some customers are paying cash for their prescriptions, hoping they will be reimbursed by their plans.
CMS officials are urging seniors to be patient and said they are working to resolve the problems (Beeman/Brickey, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 1/7).
Mike Negrete, vice president of clinical affairs for the California Association of Pharmacists, said some pharmacists are spending as much as two hours per patient trying to address confusion over the benefit (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 1/8).
Some pharmacists believe the situation will improve as seniors and their pharmacists learn more about the plans, approval processes and copays (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 1/7).
However, Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program officials said they fear a similar scenario in the spring, as the May 15 deadline for enrollment in the benefit approaches (Sacramento Bee, 1/7).
Additional information about the Medicare drug benefit is available online.