Familiarity Is Beginning to Ease Burden of Part D Hassles


SAN DIEGO — In the second year of Medicare Part D implementation, physicians continue to struggle with prior authorization requests and other hassles, Dr. Kay M. Mitchell said at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians.

Although some of the paperwork burden remains, the prescription drug program is generally easier to manage now because patients and physicians are more familiar with the rules, said Dr. Mitchell, a geriatrician and a professor in the department of community internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.

“It's still going to cost us time and money,” Dr. Mitchell said. “It doesn't matter how much we've worked at it.”

For example, physicians continue to see requests for prior authorization and step therapy, said Neil M. Kirschner, Ph.D., ACP's senior associate of insurer and regulatory affairs. In addition, in 2007, several drugs were approved under both Medicare Part B and Part D, which could create denials, he said.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are working on this issue and recommend that physicians write the diagnosis and “Part D” on the prescription, Dr. Kirschner said.

Physicians might experience some relief in terms of prior authorization and exceptions if their patients haven't changed drug plans, Dr. Mitchell said. CMS officials announced that prior authorizations and exceptions approved by a drug plan in 2006 are expected to continue this year if the beneficiary remains in the same plan and the expiration date hadn't occurred by Dec. 31, 2006. However, if the beneficiary changes plans, physicians might have to go through the same process again. And even when patients remain in the same plan, some physicians have still received prior authorization requests, she said.

When you are faced with prior authorization, Dr. Mitchell suggested, save time by having the patient collect the authorization forms and bring them into the office. In her office, this saves office staff 20–35 minutes per prescription, she said.

Some physicians have decided to deal with the extra Part D paperwork by either hiring additional staff or designating staff to deal solely with Part D prior authorizations, denials, and appeals, Dr. Mitchell said. Some physicians use general office staff while others use nursing staff. Dr. Mitchell said she prefers to have one of her nurses work on Part D issues because she is already familiar with the patients and their medications.

Dr. Mitchell also recommended that staff members who are working on Part D issues attend continuing medical education meetings that focus on Part D.

During the course of Part D implementation, Dr. Mitchell also learned that insurers may ask for documentation justifying a switch in medications. To simplify that process, she recommends, keep a sheet in the front of the chart with information on medication changes.

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