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Pharmacists say marketing of Medicare drug plans is misleading

Pharmacists have called on the agency overseeing the Medicare program to allow patients to switch their prescription drug plans outside of the normal open enrollment season after beneficiaries say they were misled by insurers. Beneficiaries report that they were promised zero co-pays upon enrolling in Part D drug plans online or using Medicare Plan Finder on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website. However, some of those patients found out only after enrollment had closed that the discounted rates apply only at pharmacies in certain box stores. "Now seniors are going to the community pharmacy that they have relied on for years, sometimes decades, only to be told that they must travel 20 miles or more to obtain the lowest-advertised co-payments for their medication," said B. Douglas Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Assn. in Alexandria, Va. The association has asked CMS to create a special enrollment period that allows for patients who are dissatisfie ...

Telemedicine boosting dermatology care

Linking dermatologists to patients in remote areas through tele-medicine gives patients more accurate diagnoses and better disease management than they would receive without access to a specialist, says a study in the January Archives of Dermatology. Researchers analyzed data from 1,490 patients who had tele-dermatology consultations and found that patients received a diagnosis that was different from the referring physician's in 70% of cases. In 98% of cases, dermatologists recommended changes in the way patients were managing their condition. "We were more surprised that a lot of these changes in management did lead to an improvement in their disease," said study co-author April W. Armstrong, MD, MPH, director of tele-dermatology at the University of California Davis School of Medicine. "The changes in management and the changes in diagnosis really correlated with patients' improvement." Improved clinical outcomes were seen for 69% of 313 patients who had at least one follow ...

States maintain or ease access to Medicaid and CHIP

Despite continued budget pressures on states, far more states eased than tightened access to Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program in 2011. Twenty-nine states increased Medicaid or CHIP eligibility, lowered beneficiary cost-sharing or improved their enrollment procedures in 2011. That's according to a 50-state survey of state Medicaid programs released Jan. 18 by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured and the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. In contrast, only two states restricted Medicaid or CHIP eligibility last year, and only seven increased enrollee cost-sharing. State Medicaid actions were influenced by federal incentives and requirements in the national health system reform law, according to the survey. For example, the Dept. of Health and Human Services announced in April 2011 that it would pay 90% of the costs of developing new or upgrading existing Medicaid eligibility and enrollment systems until 2015. Eighteen state ...