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State-by-State Analysis of Medicare Part D Finds Low-Income Nursing Home Residents Have a Poor Chance of Being Enrolled in the Best Available Drug Plans

 
 Most Could Be Enrolled in a Better Plan at No Cost If They Were Allowed to
                     Receive Help From Their Caregivers

    WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An analysis released
today by the Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance (LTCPA) finds most low-income
nursing home residents have a poor chance of being enrolled in the Medicare
Part D plan that best covers their medications -- and most could
immediately switch to a better plan at no cost if they were allowed to
receive help from their caregivers.
    Under the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, low-income nursing
home residents who are "dual eligible" for both Medicare and Medicaid are
qualified to have their medicines covered at no cost as long they are
enrolled in one of several drug plans recognized as "below benchmark" in
cost by the federal government's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
(CMS). These "Duals" represent about two-thirds of the nursing home
population.
    The LTCPA analysis finds those below benchmark cost plans vary greatly
in terms of the drugs they cover and the restrictions they put on access to
those medicines. Using the online plan finder CMS provides to beneficiaries
to evaluate drug plans, LTCPA compared how below benchmark cost plans
covered 10 drugs commonly prescribed to long-term care residents. The
results varied dramatically from very good to very poor.
    In New York, for example, there are roughly 80,000 low-income nursing
home residents who can choose to be enrolled in any of 13 below benchmark
cost plans.
    -- 3 of those 13 plans cover all 10 drugs, and have restrictions such as
       requiring prior authorization or step therapy on only one drug.
    -- 10 of those 13 plans do not cover all drugs, with 2 of the plans not
       covering 4 of the 10 drugs; and have restrictions such as requiring
       prior authorization or step therapy on an additional 4 drugs.
    No single drug plan is best for all nursing home residents all the
time. Recognizing that, the Part D program allows low-income nursing home
residents to choose among any below benchmark plan, and to switch plans
monthly in order to guarantee the best coverage. In spite of the ability to
select and change plans, few frail elderly nursing home residents do so.
Because nursing home residents are typically very elderly and in poor
physical and mental health, most lack the ability to evaluate, choose and
enroll in a Part D plan on their own.
    To ensure nursing home residents receive some drug coverage, the
federal government automatically assigns a plan to all low-income
beneficiaries who fail to choose one on their own. Those beneficiaries are
evenly -- and randomly -- distributed among all below benchmark cost plans
in their region. That assignment is made without any attempt to match
beneficiaries to the plan that best covers their drugs. As a result, while
all regions have below benchmark cost plans available to cover all or most
of a beneficiary's medicines with few restrictions, the odds are poor that
they will be randomly assigned to that particular plan.
    Making things worse, it is current federal policy that "under no
circumstances should a nursing home require, request, coach or steer any
resident to select or change a plan for any reason." The same prohibition
has been applied to other caregivers including pharmacists, nursing home
staff and physicians.
    "Hundreds of thousands of frail low-income nursing home residents in
this country only need a little help to be enrolled in a Part D plan that
better covers their medications. Yet, they are denied having the people
they trust to care for them -- their nurses, physicians and pharmacists --
give them that help," said LTCPA Executive Director Paul Baldwin. "It is
unreasonable and unacceptable that so many nursing home residents are stuck
in drug plans that don't fully cover their medicines when the only thing
standing in their way is bad federal policy. Their health should not be
left to random chance."
    A copy of the full report is available at http://www.ltcpa.org. The
report includes state-by-state data for all 50 states and the District of
Columbia.
    The Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance represents pharmacies that
specialize in providing medicines to over one million of the nation's
long-term care residents. LTCPA representatives are available for
interviews and to discuss the report.

 

 
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