Complaints About Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Declined

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The monthly rate of complaints from Medicare beneficiaries about the prescription drug benefit decreased by 74% during the 18-month period that ended on Oct. 31, 2007, according to a report recently released by the Government Accountability Office, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. For the report, GAO examined almost 630,000 complaints filed with CMS during the review period. The monthly rate of complaints decreased from a peak of 2.86 complaints per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries in May 2006 to 0.73 in October 2007, and the time needed to resolve complaints decreased from 33 days to nine days, the report found.

However, the report found that CMS did not resolve many of the most important complaints -- those that involve Medicare beneficiaries who might exhaust their supplies of necessary medications -- in an adequate amount of time. According to the report, CMS should resolve complaints that involve Medicare beneficiaries who have less than a two-day supply of necessary medications within two calendar days, but the agency on average took 12 days to resolve such complaints.

Acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems said that he agreed with the results of the report for the review period. However, during the six-month period that ended in April, CMS resolved the most important complaints within three days on average, Weems said (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 7/28).


New Medicare Law Could Increase E-Prescribing

The new Medicare law could increase the use of electronic prescribing because of a provision that provides bonus payments to physicians who adopt the practice in early years and might penalize those who do not adopt the practice in later years, USA Today reports. About 6% of U.S. physicians in 2007 used e-prescribing on a regular basis, according to USA Today. Under the provision, physicians who adopt e-prescribing will receive a 2% bonus in reimbursements in 2009 and 2010, a 1% bonus in 2011 and 2012 and a 0.5% bonus in 2013. Physicians who do not adopt e-prescribing might begin to face penalties in 2012.

Advocates of e-prescribing maintain that the practice can help reduce medication errors. In addition, HHS estimates that widespread use of e-prescribing could save Medicare as much as $156 million over five years. However, privacy advocates have raised concerns that the use of e-prescribing could allow pharmacies to sell or trade the information of Medicare beneficiaries (Kornblum, USA Today, 7/29).

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