Computer Error Boosts Medicare Drug Costs
Alarm bells sounded when SenRichard Durbin (D, Ill) and the mediapointed out discrepancies in annualcost estimates on Medicare's Web site.The errors were brought to the attentionof the Centers for Medicare and MedicaidServices (CMS) when questionsarose about why some plans' annualcost estimates have changed since theWeb site was launched last month.
CMS spokesman Gary Karr said thatthe Web site is updated weekly withthe latest information from the plans.The plans are permitted to adjust drugprices and the amounts Medicaremembers will pay for those drugs. Heexplained that CMS found that a computerdata problem was falsely inflatingdrug prices for a plan offered byUnicare—Medicare Rx Rewards Premier.Unicare's plan was cited byDurbin in a letter to the Department ofHealth and Human Services. The senatorquestioned why the Unicare costestimate had increased by >$1250since mid-November.
At press time, CMS was working tocorrect the problem. Karr noted thatCMS was aware of a similar problemwith another plan but could not rule outpossible problems with additional plans.