Medicare Drug Benefit Problems Have Decreased
Problems with access to medications under the Medicare prescription drug benefit have decreased, and many other issues related to the implementation of the program are resolved, CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said on Thursday at a pharmacist conference in Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reports.
In a speech to about 700 pharmacists at the annual conference of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, McClellan said, "We're seeing problems getting resolved. Wait times are going down. Fewer daily transactions are having holdups, and over 95% of beneficiaries are having a smooth experience the first time they go to the pharmacy counter."
A number of states implemented emergency reimbursement programs to ensure access to medications for Medicare beneficiaries after many beneficiaries could not have their prescriptions filled because pharmacists could not verify their eligibility for the prescription drug benefit.
According to McClellan, many states have ended those programs. He also said that the Medicare prescription drug benefit has provided savings for beneficiaries "in large part (because of) the discounts negotiated by the drug plans." He added, "National drug spending is lower even as seniors get millions more in benefits."
McClellan also said that he opposes a proposal by some lawmakers to extend the May 15 enrollment deadline for the Medicare prescription drug benefit, adding, "Deadlines are helpful for people to make decisions and help is available for them now" (Krasner, Boston Globe, 3/10).