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News of the Day ... In Perspective

03/23/2006

Pharmacists complain that Medicare Part D threatens their livelihood

When Medicare Part D encountered glitches, such as difficulty in verifying eligibility, pharmacists gave away millions of dollars worth of medications for which Medicare should have paid. Pharmacists “bailed out the Medicare prescription drug program” in its first week, said Texas Pharmacy Association executive director James L. Martin.

Now Medicare drug plans often pay even less than Medicaid, and hold the money for 30 days instead of paying within 7 to 15 days as Medicaid and commercial insurers do.

“Pharmacists are being asked to bankroll the program. Many have to dig into personal savings and take out loans to stay in business,” said Richard E. Beck, vice president of American Pharmacies.

Many independent pharmacies may have to close, and “others are hurting so bad that they will choose not to participate in Medicare and Medicaid,” said Bill Pittman, a former president of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy.

Administration officials claim that seniors are saving large amounts of money because prescription drug plans had negotiated deep discounts with drug makers and pharmacies.

Pharmacists say that insurers typically offer contracts on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

Another complaint is “co-branding arrangements,” under which drug plans advertise a specific drugstore company on their member identification cards, suggesting that members cannot use other stores (Robert Pear, NY Times 3/13/06).

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