CMS is asking pharmacy benefit managers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, drug suppliers and similar private-sector entities to come up with plans to offer discount drug cards to Medicare enrollees before the new Medicare prescription benefit takes effect in 2006.
In a 475-page interim rule issued Wednesday, CMS spells out its rules for endorsing cards for Medicare beneficiaries and asks applicants to submit their plans by early next year.
"We anticipate that all applicants whose discount card programs meet the requirements . . . will receive the Medicare endorsement," CMS says in its summary of the proposed rule.
The Medicare agency is requiring card providers to limit the annual enrollment fee for discount programs to $30. HHS says in a press release that program participants should save about 10% to 15% on overall prescription drug costs and up to 25% on some individual medications.
CMS has scheduled a two-day conference for potential applicants Dec. 18-19 at CMS headquarters in Baltimore to outline the program rules.
The discount drug program is meant to bridge the gap before the full pharmaceutical benefit in the Medicare reform legislation passed last month starts in January 2006. HHS says the cards should be available early next year.