Drug benefit's kinks should get worked out by April, McClellan says

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The Medicare Part D drug benefit's start-up flaws should be fixed by March or April, according to the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid.

Administrator Mark B. McClellan outlined steps CMS is taking to address problems surrounding the start-up. They include: requiring plan insurers to provide beneficiaries with a 90-day supply of any medications they were taking before Jan. 1; and hiring a company to ensure that pharmacists, states and drug plans have the same information on beneficiaries.

CMS also is conducting daily transfers of information between Medicare and drug plans; and increasing the number of phone line representatives to 7,800 from 3,000. McClellan spoke during a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee this week.

Some senators complained of too many drug plans being available to seniors. But McClellan told the committee that he does not plan to limit the number of drug plans offered under the benefit. Competition between plans has helped keep costs down, he said.