CMS contracts with pharmacies to cover dual eligibles

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services contracted with two national pharmacy providers to prevent drug coverage gaps for people eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare who are not enrolled automatically in a Medicare drug plan by Jan. 1, 2006, according to Mark B. McClellan, CMS administrator.

The move comes just weeks after advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the agency alleging that CMS had not enacted safeguards to ensure that dual eligibles do not lose their coverage when the switch is made from Medicaid to Medicare on Jan. 1. CMS is auto enrolling 6 million dual eligibles.

The contracts to handle pharmacy claims are just one aspect of CMS's effort to ensure a smooth transition for the dual-eligible population, McClellan said Thursday. Drug plans are taking many additional steps to smooth transition for those automatically enrollees, including sending out special enrollment packages with their new ID cards before the new year, he said.

Z-Tech Corp., Rockville, MD, and WellPoint, based in Indianapolis, were the two groups awarded the contracts.