CMS Web Site Will Not Address Concerns Over Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Card Program, Editorial States
A new CMS Web site that later this month will allow Medicare beneficiaries to compare prescription drug discount cards approved by HHS will not completely resolve confusion from beneficiaries, according to a Los Angeles Times editorial (Los Angeles Times, 4/17). Under the new Medicare law, beneficiaries who do not have prescription drug coverage through Medicaid can participate in the discount card program. Federal officials estimate that the discount cards could save beneficiaries about 10% to 25% on prescription drug costs until the new prescription drug benefit takes effect in 2006. Companies that offer the discount cards can charge an annual enrollment fee of as much as $30 and likely will offer savings on at least one medication in each of 209 classes of treatments commonly used by Medicare beneficiaries. HHS last month approved 28 private companies to offer 49 different discount cards to Medicare beneficiaries (California Healthline, 4/14). The new Web site, developed by Los Angeles-based DestinationRx, will "show how the cards' discounts compare with average retail prices" and could "shed some light on one of the most opaque practices in U.S. capitalism," the editorial states. However, the editorial states that the discount card program will "inevitably generate confusion that no Web site can clear up," adding that a coalition of California health plan directors estimated "it would take 2 1/2 hours to fully explain" the program to one Medicare beneficiary. According to the editorial, the Web site should include a "simple index that lets consumers compare the savings of a given drug card with discounted prices now paid" for medications by other federal agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, the Web site could "steer seniors toward legitimate discounts" and raise awareness about "pricing inequities that cry out for reforms far more ambitious than a drug discount card," the editorial concludes (Los Angeles Times, 4/17).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.