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Archive for July 29th, 2008

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The AP (7/29, Freking) reports, “Complaints about the Medicare drug benefit have dropped considerably since the summer of 2006, but ongoing challenges still pose problems for participants, particularly in getting complaints addressed promptly,” according to auditors with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO auditors “tracked nearly 630,000 complaints filed with the federal government during an 18-month period ending Oct. 31.” They found that “the monthly complaint rate had dropped about 74 percent from peak levels — to 1.5 complaints per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries. Also, the time needed to resolve the complaints dropped from 33 days to nine days.”

        But, Modern Healthcare (7/28, Lubell) pointed out that “a substantial proportion of complaints filed when beneficiaries were at risk of exhausting their medications were not resolved within the CMS’ [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] desired time frames, according to a written statement from the Energy and Commerce Committee.” The GAO auditors “found that 53 percent of ‘immediate need complaints’ and 27 percent of ‘urgent need complaints’ were not resolved in a timely fashion.” The GAO conducted the review following “a request from leaders of the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).”

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USA Today (7/29, Kornblum) reports, “The move to get doctors to file prescriptions electronically is gathering steam, and may get a further boost from new Medicare rules that give doctors money to go electronic — and take it away if they don’t.” According to Pharmacy Health Information Exchange, which transmits “e-prescriptions from doctors’ offices to pharmacies,” between 2004 and 2007, “e-prescriptions increased from 700,000 to 35 million.” Yet, “that only amounts to about six percent of U.S. doctors who regularly sent e-prescriptions in 2007,” something the government hopes to change. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt stated that a “new four-year program” announced last week “will give doctors who start e-prescribing incentive payments,” which will be the equivalent of “two percent of their billable Medicare charges for 2009 and 2010, one percent for 2011 and 2012, and 0.5 percent in 2013.” And, “[i]f doctors don’t get on board, they could face penalties beginning in 2012.”

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