Government hopes to end reimbursement program by mid-February

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The federal government has set a tentative deadline of Feb. 15 to end the temporary reimbursement program to states regarding Medicare Part D issues. That date could be extended to states on as-needed basis.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services agreed to help reimburse states for paying drug costs for dual eligibles during the start of the Medicare Part D benefit. Prescription drug plans will reimburse states and Medicare will cover amounts that are greater than what the plans will pay, CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said. CMS also will provide funding for states' administrative costs.

CMS officials also plan to work with pharmacists and pharmacy trade groups around the country to improve their understanding and compliance with the program, to make sure that they primarily bill the Medicare program for dual eligibles' claims. Many states stepped in to pay drug costs after it was discovered that many dual eligibles were not receiving their medications and plans raised co-payment prices.

In related news, the Senate Finance Committee planned to hold a meeting today to get briefed by briefed by McClellan and his boss, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, and to discuss concerns about the Part D rollout.