The new Medicare prescription drug benefit presents many challenges to the nation’s seven million dual Medicare-Medicaid eligibles. On January 1, 2006 they must move from broader, more flexible Medicaid drug coverage to the narrower, extraordinarily complex Medicare drug benefit. Among those in jepordy are about a half million frail seniors and severely disabled persons served by state home- and community-based waiver programs.

State Medicaid programs offer a range of home- and community-based services to help frail seniors and severely disabled individuals avoid costly institutionalization. Of course, adequate drug coverage is essential to this effort. Most individuals enrolled in these programs are dual eligibles and thus face dramatic changes in their drug benefits.

An excellent new report discusses the impact of Medicare Part D on this subset of dual eligibles. The author, Chuck Milligan, JD, MPH, is a highly respected Medicaid and long-term care guru. Formerly vice president at The Lewin Group and New Mexico Medicaid director, he’s executive director of the Center for Health Program Development and Management at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Chuck offers several thoughtful recommendations:

● Allow states to dispense 90-day prescriptions in December 2005 with full federal matching funds.

● Allow Medicaid to share drug information with the Medicare prescription drug plan as soon as auto-enrollment is finalized.

● Require Medicare prescription drug plans to honor a beneficiary?s existing pharmacy regimen until an in-network physician develops a new care plan.

● Require Medicare prescription drug plans to offer dual eligibles open formularies or Medicaid-equivalent formularies during the first six months to a year.

● Allow states to pick up the cost of noncovered drugs with full federal matching funds and be eligible for a credit to the state ?clawback.?

● Lengthen the period for auto-enrollment.

Please also check out the Piper Report’s recent story on the risks of Part D to nursing home residents.