Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bush to states: Thanks for helping us out of a jam, suckers....

The federal government won't repay states that are making emergency purchases for hundreds of thousands of poor, sick people whose new Medicare drug coverage isn't yet working, Medicare officials say.

Instead, those states must recoup the money from the private plans that began providing drug coverage Jan. 1 on behalf of Medicare.

Medicare administrator Mark McClellan said the new Medicare legislation was clear: "Under this program, we don't have the authority to pay states directly. People are in Medicare drug plans and it's the Medicare plans that are supposed to pay for the medications." ...

Oh, so in this case the Bush administration says its hands are tied by the exact text of a law. Funny how that doesn't seem to matter to these guys at other times.

Now, let's review: This plan is a disaster so far, but the people who are supposed to make sure that the mess is cleaned up aren't the people at the federal government (which created the plan) or at the private companies (which sell and profit from the actual drug coverage), but in the states, which had all this foisted on them.

Ah, but the feds aren't being completely selfish:

Medicare will, however, help states deal with the drug plans. "If they're not paying for the claim they should have, we can make sure they do," [Medicare spokesman Gary] Karr said.

States can send Medicare batch files of all the people they've bought drugs for and then match those names with the drug plans the patients belong to.

"We can tell (plan A) 'Hey, here's 10 claims you should have paid. You have these people. Double-check that you've got these people and then pay these claims because they're clearly legit,'" Karr said.

Yeah, the feds are doing such a great job already -- I'm sure they'll effortly process, say, a 34,000-claim batch file from California.

(First link via Democratic Underground.)

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