Assembly Passes Emergency Legislation to Fix Glitch in Medicare Part D

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh) announced today that the Assembly passed a bill she co-sponsored to provide emergency relief for recipients dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid who have had difficulty getting their prescriptions filled since the new Medicare Part D benefit took effect on Jan. 1.

“The implementation of Medicare Part D has been a disaster for many low-income seniors and disabled people,” Gunther said. “People are confused and being asked to come up with expensive co-pays forcing many to go without vital medication for diabetes, heart disease and even cancer – it’s simply unacceptable.”

The problem has been particularly acute for the 6.2 million low-income Americans that receive both Medicare and Medicaid who were automatically enrolled in programs offered by private insurers often without their knowledge or instead of the program they actually applied for.

The problems are widespread stemming from computer and clerical errors to confusion about the policy itself. The most common problem is faced by the poorest of the poor who have found themselves recorded in computers as financially well-off and are being asked to cover a $250 deductible and 25 percent of the next $2,000 in drug costs instead of the expected flat-fee of $5 per prescription.

Under the bill passed today, the state will pick up the tab for anyone eligible for the program that is currently being denied prescription drugs. The state will then seek reimbursement from Medicare at a later date. Many other states have already taken similar measures.

“As a nurse for nearly three decades I know how dangerous this situation is for the sickest patients,” Gunther said. “We cannot allow this situation to continue another day. I urge the Governor and Senate to work with the Assembly so people can get the medications they need.”