Michael Hiltzik on the Prescription Drug Benefit Rollout
Weighing the True Costs and Benefits in a Matter of Life and Death

150? How About 4500?

Off by a factor of 30:

Daily Health Policy Report: HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Tuesday in a conference call with reporters said the department is working to address problems with the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, including increasing the number of telephone operators to assist pharmacies working with Medicare beneficiaries from 150 on Jan. 1 to 4,500, the Detroit News reports (Herrndobler, Detroit News, 1/18). He also reiterated that the government has instructed insurers to cover a 30-day supply of drugs, regardless if the medications are on the plan's formulary, and to limit copayments. He added that, as a last resort, beneficiaries could be enrolled in a default prescription drug plan while at a pharmacy. He said, "Our message [to beneficiaries] is, 'Don't leave the pharmacy without your drugs'" (Schuler/Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 1/17). He added, "There is no reason for you to go without your medicines ... or for you to have to pay more than you owe" (Appleby/Wolf, USA Today, 1/18). Leavitt added, "When there's change, there's an opportunity for things to go wrong. We are fixing them one pharmacy, one beneficiary at a time" (Pear, New York Times, 1/18). Leavitt and CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said "tens of thousands" of low-income beneficiaries have experienced problems obtaining drugs (USA Today, 1/18).... The federal government will not reimburse states that are covering the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries who are unable to obtain medications under the new drug benefit, McClellan said Tuesday...