Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacists Part of HHS' Therapy for Health Care

Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacists Part of HHS' Therapy for Health Care

Article excerpt

The Department of Health & Human Services has written "a prescription for a new course of therapy for America's health-care system," and pharmacists are an important ingredient in it, according to David Satcher, M.D., assistant secretary of HHS and Surgeon General of the United States. He cited three major initiatives of that plan-modernizing Medicare, protecting the privacy of patient records, and improving the quality of care.

"As part of modernizing Medicare, we must bring its benefits package into the 21st century," said Satcher, keynoting the American Pharmaceutical Association's annual meeting last month in Washington, D.C. "Nobody designing a car today would leave out seat belts. Right? And nobody designing the Medicare system would, or should, consider leaving out a prescription drug benefit."

HHS is calling for a drug benefit that is "voluntary and accessible to all seniors; offers meaningful protection and bargaining power for affordable, competitive prices; and is easy to administer," Satcher said. Under the HHS plan, any retiree who has coverage can keep it, premiums will be affordable, and "low-income beneficiaries will receive extra help," he explained. Benefits will cover up to $2,000 for Rx drugs starting in 2003 and up to $5,000 by 2009. "There will be no price controls, no government bureaucracy, and the plan will be offered through pharmacy benefit managers," he added. "We see individual pharmacists as indispensable to making the prescription drug benefit a cost-effective tool and one of high quality for patient care. …

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