Friday, January 27, 2006

Worse and worse:

The new Medicare drug program is denying supplies that seriously ill patients need to administer intravenous antibiotics and other medications at home. As a result, some patients are being referred to nursing homes, and others have had to go into hospitals.

Although no national estimates are available, the number of patients affected -- including some with life-threatening diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis -- could run into the thousands. One Anaheim pharmacy says 200 of its patients are having trouble....

Essentially, the prescription program allows coverage of the drugs but does not pay for the medical supplies and nursing help needed for the home infusion treatments to be safe and effective -- a policy that effectively shuts down such treatment for some patients, even though it is substantially cheaper than the alternatives....

Earliy in this story we're told, "Medicare officials say they are aggressively addressing the problem" -- but later on we have some of those same officials getting testy and defensive as they say it's out of their hands:

... Mark McClellan, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the agency lacked specific legal authority to broaden the coverage policy, in effect, handing the problem back to Congress.

"If we could pay for it, we would," said Dr. Jeff Kelman, chief medical officer for the division of Medicare that handles the drug benefit. "Read the act yourself .... It's a drug benefit, not a medical benefit."

You know what? Maybe you should have read the damn act before you made it the centerpiece ofg the administration's domestic agenda.

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