Report: Nursing home residents won't see benefits of Medicare drug cards

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Nursing home residents on the whole won't see prescription drug savings under the new Medicare discount drug cards, which become effective June 1. The prescription drug needs of nursing home residents are so specialized that Congress and federal regulators could not find a way to extend the discount card benefits to cover them, according to the Gannett News Service.

On average, nursing home residents get six or seven prescription medications per day, and most nursing homes purchase and dispense the drugs by contracting with institutional pharmacies not open to the public.

The specialized delivery system explains why the Medicare discount cards won't work in the nursing home setting, Paul Baldwin, executive director of the Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance, told Gannett.

However, nursing home residents who are not on Medicaid or Medicare, about 3% to 5% of residents, could be eligible for a $600 subsidy under Medicare this year and next. To qualify, a nursing home resident's annual income may not exceed $12,568 for an individual or $16,862 for a couple. Medicare will pay the $30 enrollment fee to the card sponsor on behalf of the nursing home resident.

Medicare has given three pharmacy groups permission to market "transitional assistance" cards to make the $600 credit available to nursing home residents. But the government has not yet approved marketing plans submitted by the three groups, thus delaying the dissemination of information to nursing homes, reports Gannett.