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Part D kickoff receives mixed reviews

Physician Practice Advisor, January 4, 2006

According to an article in the New York Times, initial reports on the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, which took effect January 1, have included both successes and struggles. People who applied early and had identification cards in hand were often able to fill prescriptions through the new program. But others encountered obstacles in their efforts to take advantage of the drug benefit, as pharmacists spent hours trying to confirm eligibility and enrollment by telephone and computer.

Mark McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said he was pleased with the first days' experience. But because of "a big surge in enrollment at the end of December," McClellan said, some beneficiaries have not received identification cards or acknowledgment letters from the drug plans to which they applied.

The eligibility database is maintained by a Medicare contractor, NDCHealth. A spokesman for the company, Robert Borchert, said Monday, "We experienced slow response times because of the heavy volume of calls early today. Throughout the day, we've been making adjustments to deliver faster responses to pharmacies."