Medicare Part D woes continue for pharmacists - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Medicare Part D woes continue for pharmacists

January 16, 2006

Albany-- Many of you are having trouble getting the medicine you need. The new Medicare prescription drug plan is supposed to help millions of senior citizens pay for sky-rocketing drug costs.

But pharmacists say it's coming at their expense. A couple of weeks into the program, there are still major problems.

January first is a day many pharmacists won't soon forget.

"The worst day of my pharmacy career!" says Prescription Shoppe pharmacist, Mike Belcher.

"It's the biggest fiasco that retail pharmacists had to deal with," says Davis Drugs pharmacist, Thomas McSwain.

On that day, millions of Medicare recipients became eligible for prescription drug benefits.

"Literature said from a lot of companies that if you signed up by 11:59 PM on December 31, you'll be eligible for coverage January first," says McSwain.

However, that hasn't been the case. "Some people are still not in the system that signed up, that have applications, that have processed applications to have particular insurance coverage for certain drugs," says McSwain.

So, for now McSwain and many other pharmacists are simply loaning medication to patients. Only there's one problem. "Who's reimbursing millions of dollars to these pharmacies? Not just me, but a lot of pharmacies. A month down the road, two months down the road. where's this money coming from?" says McSwain.

"Essentially, we're financing this Medicare Part D program," says pharmacist, Mike Belcher.

Belcher also loans medication to patients who's Medicare coverage has not kicked in yet, but worries when insurance companies will reimburse him for it.

"Most of these companies are new companies. They haven't been in this business, so we don't have any idea how fast they're going to turn our money around to us," says McSwain.

Pharmacists like McSwain and Belcher aren't sure how much longer they can afford to loan the patients medication. But are encouraging them to visit their physician for options.

Medicare recipients have until May 15th to sign up for the prescription coverage without a penalty. After that, for every month you delay you'll have to pay a one percent penalty on your premium.

If you signed up for Medicare Part D but still aren't able to get the prescriptions you need, pharmacists have a few suggestions.

Talk with a physician about changing to a less expensive generic brand. See if your doctor can provide samples of the medication you need. And buy a week's supply of your medication at a time at a pro-rated price.

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