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Survey: Rural Seniors Face Challenges From Medicare Part D Preferred Pharmacy Drug Plans

‘Preferred pharmacies’ may be far from seniors’ homes (Feb. 7)

A survey of community pharmacists suggests that so-called “preferred pharmacy” Medicare Part D drug benefit plans may pose challenges for seniors in rural communities. The finding comes shortly after similar questions were raised at the January public meeting of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), Congress' advisory board on Medicare issues.

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) surveyed 400 pharmacists in January 2013 regarding the plans. Among the findings:

  • Some seniors are surprised to find that they are enrolled in Part D drug plans whose preferred pharmacies offering the lowest advertised co-pays may be 20 miles or more from the seniors’ homes.
  • Nearly all community pharmacy owners/operators (91%) said they were not offered the opportunity to participate as a preferred pharmacy.
  • Virtually all pharmacists (98%) said their patients were confused about the difference between preferred and non-preferred (“network”) pharmacies, with 76% of pharmacists attributing the patients’ confusion to the plan’s marketing activities.

While the Medicare Part D program does require plans to maintain a pharmacy network that meets minimum access standards, these requirements do not apply to the preferred pharmacies designated by the plan. To date, plans have largely designated only national chain pharmacies as preferred pharmacies, raising access concerns for rural seniors, the NCPA says.

Source: NCPA; February 7, 2013.

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