Experts: Concerns over Medicare drug benefit for LTC facilities linger

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Healthcare and nursing home advocates continue to express much concern over how nursing home residents will receive prescription drugs under the new Medicare law.

The Bush administration announced plans Monday to create coverage regions nationwide under the new Medicare prescription drug law for private insurers to offer Medicare prescription drug plans beginning in 2006. But there is still no clarification of the role of consultant pharmacies, which represent the primary way drugs are dispensed in nursing homes. Because of this, long-term care operators and representative of the pharmaceutical industry anticipate potential problems, according to New York Times reports echoing earlier McKnight's Long-Term Care News stories.

One concern is that nursing homes may lose necessary consultant services that current pharmacy providers provide residents. More than one-third of nursing home residents suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's disease, and nursing home operators are concerned that many residents simply are not able to make informed decisions about prescription drug costs and the plans offered under the new Medicare prescription drug law.

While the Medicare drug law assumes most elderly live in the community and get their drugs from retail pharmacies, roughly 1.6 million people reside in nursing homes and receive their medications through specialized long-term care pharmacies.

The range of drugs covered by Medicare is expected to be more limited than under Medicaid in most states. long-term care advocates say, which some believe may require nursing home residents to switch to covered medications, presenting a dangerous situation for frail nursing home residents.