McClellan admits drug access problems during benefit's launch, soothes SNF worries

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Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Mark McClellan acknowledged that many dual eligible recipients and others have faced drug access problems under the new drug benefit. He also stated in a letter to long-term care providers that they will not have to absorb costs that a federal program should have.

"I want to make it clear that CMS expects the Part D plans to pay for all covered charges for their members during the transition period," McClellan said in a letter to officials at the American Health Care Association. "For this reason, we do not expect nursing homes to be responsible for these payments."

Thousands of elderly and disabled beneficiaries have struggled getting medicines with the new benefit, McClellan has admitted. Besides dual eligibles who were automatically switched to new coverage, those who switched plans in late December have also had difficulties filling prescriptions.

"We're working around the clock and around the country to make sure everyone can get the prescriptions they need," McClellan said.

Despite the challenges during the transition period, more than 500,000 new beneficiaries are expected to enroll by the end of this month. That would exceed McClellan's expectations.