Pharmacy Times
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Despite complaints by many community pharmacists who claim they are being shortchanged by the new Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) told Congress that their agency is working closely with pharmacy providers to improve the program.

Although Part D got off to a rocky start in January 2006, "CMS worked hard to find and fix the problems, and took significant steps early to avoid similar issues in 2007," Abby L. Block, director of the Center for Beneficiary Choice for CMS, said in testimony to the Senate Finance Committee.

"We worked with plans, pharmacists, and states to improve data systems impacting beneficiary access," he explained. "For example, we facilitated better communication between plans and pharmacies, which resulted in upgrades to pharmacy software systems that will improve messaging between pharmacies and plans for better customer service."

In addition to the behind-the-scenes enhancements to pharmacy customer service, Part D as scored some impressive improvements in the delivery of prescription medicines to America?s seniors, said Block. Prior to the advent of the new Medicare program, the nation?s elderly were the one segment of the population least likely to have coverage for medications. Today, however, "more than 90% of eligible beneficiaries [have] creditable coverage for prescription drugs through Part D or other sources?," Block told the committee.

Better than 4 of 5 beneficiaries are satisfied with their Part D coverage, and almost half of the people who reported skipping or splitting dosages of medication prior to Medicare?s prescription drug coverage say they no longer have to under Part D, she said.

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