CMS Continues Efforts To Address Medicare Drug Benefit Delays
CMS has added staff members to call centers and continues to update a database that provides coverage information for beneficiaries to help address problems with the distribution of medications under the new prescription drug benefit, which began on Monday, Larry Kocot, an adviser to agency Administrator Mark McClellan, said on Thursday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.
Pharmacists this week have said that in some cases they could not fill prescriptions for Medicare beneficiaries because they could not confirm coverage information. The problems in many cases involved incomplete coverage information in the database, which is administered by NDCHealth. As a result, some Medicare beneficiaries have paid for their prescriptions out of pocket, and some pharmacists have loaned medications to beneficiaries until the problems are resolved.
Kocot said, "We have heard that there have been bumps on the road, and we're not saying there haven't been issues," adding, "As they come up, we address them, and we'll continue to improve." He said that some of the problems with the database are related to a high volume of enrollment in the Medicare prescription drug benefit in late December 2005 (Davis, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/6).
The phrase "an awful mess" is an "apt description" for the "fiscal impact" of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, a problem that "will only get worse," syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. According to estimates, Medicare has almost $30 trillion in unfunded obligations over the next 75 years, 30% of which is related to the prescription drug benefit, Sullum writes.
CMS estimates that the Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost $724 billion in the first 10 years of operation and as much as $2 trillion in the second 10 years, according to Sullum. He writes that this "reckless expansion of the welfare state was sold as a way of helping senior citizens who couldn't afford the ever-more expensive drugs their doctors prescribed." He adds, "Guess what? Taxpayers can't afford them either."
According to Sullum, the "impending financial collapse of Medicare ... is not something we can simply endure. It will require onerous taxation, dramatic cuts in Medicare benefits, or even more dramatic cuts in the rest of the federal budget" (Sullum, Washington Times, 1/6).
Additional information about the Medicare drug benefit is available online.