January 25, 2006

Crapo: Idaho Progressing Under New Drug Plan

Finance Committee briefed on fixing problems with Medicare Part D

Washington, DC - In a Senate Finance Committee briefing this morning, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo noted that the state of Idaho is doing nation-leading work in managing the complexity and inevitable start-up problems associated with the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director/Administrator Mark McClellan addressed Crapo and other Finance Committee members regarding the program, which began a few weeks ago. Leavitt and McClellan noted that more than 40,000 seniors are signing up for the prescription benefit every day. They also addressed concerns with states being reimbursed for drug costs that are not paid for by the Medicare drug plans. McClellan has indicated that Medicare will cover any gap between the prescription drug plan payment and the actual cost incurred by the state. In addition, states will be reimbursed for drug costs for beneficiaries who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare as well. Following the briefing, Crapo said, "This prescription drug benefit is the most significant change since the inception of Medicare and it is only expected that trouble spots would arise. While many of the problems were anticipated, a few were not and we are fixing them. I am pleased that Secretary Leavitt and Administrator McClellan have been working to address each of the problems. Overall, the State of Idaho has done a great job in educating and enrolling Medicare beneficiaries into the program. We must make certain that the problems with co-payments, computers, and delivery that have been cropping up throughout the country are addressed and that seniors are able to access quality health care and drug benefit coverage. We should not let these problems overshadow the fact that every day there are folks who are paying far less for their medications than they were before. I am particularly heartened that Idahoans have found ready resources for questions and problems that have arisen for them." For seniors who are experiencing problems or have questions, please call 1-800-MEDICARE (633-4227) or the Idaho's Senior Health Insurance Benefit Advisors Program (SHIBA) at 1 (800) 247-4422. Information is also available on the Internet at http://www.medicare.gov/pdphome.asp and http://www.doi.state.id.us/shiba/shibahealth.aspx. FOR INTERESTED MEDIA: A radio actuality is available by calling 1-800-545-1267. Press 327 at any time during or after the greeting and instructions. You can also access the actuality through the Internet at http://src.senate.gov/radio/.