/publications/issue/2005/2005-06/2005-06-9626

Pharmacy's Role Under Medicare Part D: Educating Beneficiaries

Author: Ken Rankin

Federal officials are counting on the nation's pharmacists to play a leading role in educating the nation's seniors about the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit that takes effect next year.

In an address at the American Pharmacists Association's Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Mark B. McClellan, MD, PhD, called on the profession to assume a "central role" in the new drug program. He added that the Medicare Rx benefit "will not work without the support and involvement of pharmacists."

According to Dr. McClellan, pharmacy's first job will involve explaining the new drug benefit to America's seniors. Citing research suggesting that one third of America's seniors are likely to turn to pharmacists for advice about the new prescription program, he said that his agency will be working with the APhA and other pharmacy groups over the next few months to ensure that they have accurate information to pass on to Medicare beneficiaries.

Although the new Rx benefit does not take effect until January 1, 2006, enrollment in the program begins on November 15, 2005. Seniors will have until May 15, 2006, to sign up for the program. The sooner they do so, however, the more they will save in reduced drug costs, Dr. McClellan said.

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.