/publications/issue/2005/2005-11/2005-11-4934

Drug Plans Win Approval to Offer Medicare Rx Benefits

Author: Ken Rankin

The new Medicare Part D prescription drug program has spawned fierce competition among scores of drug plans hoping to sign up seniors for coverage before the new benefit takes effect on January 1, 2006. At press time, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had formally approved scores of plans for participation in the new program, and government officials were predicting that the intense competition between these plans would lower costs and enhance options for Medicare beneficiaries.

At least 2 prescription drug plans have won HHS approval in every state, an official from the department said, and between 11 and 20 organizations will be offering prescription drug plans in each region of the country. At least 10 organizations will be offering drug coverage to seniors nationwide. Moreover, plans have been approved in every state but Alaska that will charge patients monthly premiums of $20 or less. All of the approved plans have met Medicare's requirements for providing access to medically necessary drugs, including standards for access to convenient retail pharmacies.

"Thanks to the range of options available, everyone in Medicare will be able to choose a prescription drug plan that addresses individual concerns about cost, coverage, and convenience," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "For premiums that are in many cases much lower than expected, seniors will be able to get Medicare-approved prescription drug coverage that will help protect their health as well as their savings."

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.