Baucus Applauds Progress in Implementation of Prescription Drug Benefit
Senator Expresses Concern Over Key Provisions Found in Regulations
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) U.S. Senator Max Baucus, Ranking Member of the U.S. SenateFinance Committee, commended the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) forissuing the final regulations implementing the 2003 Medicare prescription drug legislation. Theregulations establish a new prescription drug benefit and provide expanded private plan optionsthrough Medicare Advantage beginning January 1, 2006. But Baucus expressed reservationsconcerning key provisions of the regulations.
“I would like to applaud CMS for their hard work producing the regulations on time tohave the benefits up and running next January,” Baucus said. “I remain a proud supporter of theMedicare prescription drug bill. While certainly not perfect, I believe this bill holds the promiseof providing long-overdue and much-needed prescription drug assistance to millions of seniorsand disabled Americans. But I remain concerned about important implementation decisionsmade by CMS. I am taking a hard look at the regulations to ensure the law is being applied theright way for Medicare beneficiaries.”
In the past, Baucus has expressed serious reservations about the lack of detail for manymajor components of proposed regulations published in August 2004. In particular, Baucus saidhe plans to carefully analyze the final regulations to ensure that CMS addressed his concerns inthe following areas:
· The transition from Medicaid drug coverage to Medicare for the more than 6 millionbeneficiaries who are eligible for both programs;
· Consumer protections to ensure all Medicare beneficiaries have access to necessarymedications;
· Rules concerning the subsidies for employers to encourage them to maintain retiree drugcoverage;
· Rules for the interactions between state pharmacy plans and the Medicare benefit;
· Rules for calculating payments to states, known as the “clawback”;
· Access standards to ensure appropriate access to pharmacies, especially in rural regions;
· And the rules governing access to drugs for Indian populations, nursing home residents,and special needs populations.
Baucus emphad that his continued support for the legislation depends on the way theCMS implements it. “Millions of seniors and disabled Americans are depending on thisassistance. We have a critical responsibility to make sure that the bill is implemented fairly andaccording to the Congressional intent. We must make sure all Medicare beneficiaries receive thebenefits to which they are entitled under the law.”
Baucus said he looks forward to carefully reviewing the regulations and continuing towork with the Administration and Members of Congress to establish the Medicare prescriptiondrug program as quickly as possible.
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