Online Prescription Drug Plan Comparison Tool for Medicare Beneficiaries Not Operational
CMS officials this week updated the Medicare Web site with information about prescription drug plans, but a "promised interactive tool to allow beneficiaries to comparison shop still is not operational," the Washington Post reports.
The Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder -- which CMS officials had said would begin on Monday after they delayed the launch of the tool last week because of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur -- appears on the Web site but does not allow users to input their medications to obtain cost comparisons of prescription drug plans. According to a message on the Web site, "Some data necessary for the full use of this innovative tool are not yet complete and some drug pricing data are being updated."
CMS Administrator Mark McClellan this week said that the tool will become operational before Nov. 15, the date when Medicare beneficiaries can begin to enroll in the prescription drug benefit, with coverage scheduled to begin on Jan. 1, 2006. McClellan said that CMS on Monday posted some information about Medicare prescription drug plans on the Web site to allow about 10,000 local partners to become more familiar with the material they will use to advise beneficiaries.
However, "the critical ingredient to make this tool useful is not there yet," Deane Beebe of the Medicare Rights Center said, adding, "This doesn't mean anything in terms of: 'How much am I going to pay for my Lipitor?' That's what people want to know" (Lee, Washington Post, 10/21).
Additional information about the Medicare drug benefit also is available online.