Baltimore to activate emergency response system for Medicare Part D

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Baltimore's health department will turn on its emergency surveillance and response system to monitor prescription drug access for Medicare beneficiaries when the new benefit begins Jan. 1.

The health department's system, which was created to respond to public health threats, will allow health officials to monitor and resolve prescription-drug access problems during the start of the benefit, according to the city's health commissioner, Joshua Sharfstein.

The system is aimed at 28,000 city residents enrolled in Medicaid or state pharmacy assistance programs whose prescription drug coverage will transfer to Medicare under the new benefit.

It will include a 24-hour phone line for pharmacists and a database to track problems. The city also laid away $50,000 to pay for emergency prescriptions when other coverage is not available.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it has contingency plans to ensure beneficiaries obtain prescriptions.