Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Callers to the Centers for Medicare& Medicaid Services? (CMS) hot linecontinue to be frustrated by the service,according to a recent poll.

The Department of Health andHuman Services? Office of InspectorGeneral reported that only 71% ofthose who completed calls to Medicare?stoll-free number were satisfied,a drop of 13 percentage points from2004 data. When Medicare added theprescription-drug benefit to its healthplan in January 2006, caller volumejumped by 68% to 49 million calls in2006, compared with 2004, accordingto the study findings.

The Office of Inspector General recommendedanalyzing the interactivevoice response system to determinewhether additional staff members arewarranted. CMS said that it is workingon improving its services and simplifyingchoices.

In other Medicare news, seniorsenrolled in the Medicare drug programcan expect to pay $40 (8.7%)more a month next year for all standalonedrug plans, according to datareleased by CMS. Avalere Health, aprivate research firm that analyzedthe Medicare data, came up with thecost.

The agency?s own press releasecalls for a $25-a-month average premiumincrease for basic Medicare plans,however. The difference betweenCMS? cost and Avalere?s cost is thatAvalere?s cost includes plans that offermore benefits, compared with thestandard plan. Data indicated thatmost seniors enroll in the enhancedplans.