Advocacy groups file lawsuit against Medicare Part D

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Eight advocacy groups this week filed a lawsuit against Michael Leavitt, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, alleging that the government has not done enough to protect dual eligibles from losing their prescription drug coverage when the Medicare Part D benefit kicks in this Jan. 1.

The groups, which include the Medicare Rights Center, New York Statewide Senior Action Council, the Coalition of Voluntary Mental Health Agencies and United Senior Action of Indiana, filed the suit just one day before general enrollment in the prescription began.

The groups fear that the dual eligible population will not be able to receive the medications they need when coverage switches from Medicaid to Medicare. About 70% of nursing home residents are considered dual eligibles, a name for those who receive both Medicaid and Medicare assistance.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is automatically enrolling dual eligibles in prescription drug plans, has identified 6.1 million dual eligibles and has assigned 5.5 million of them to plans. Mark McClellan, administrator of CMS, said that the government will work to ensure that every dual eligible beneficiary is assigned to a plan on schedule.