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Part D's unintended consequences

A Times Editorial
Published January 20, 2006

Communities across Florida are beginning to feel the unintended consequences of the new Medicare prescription drug program. As the Times' Lisa Greene reported this week, the transfer of poor patients from a state-run Medicaid program to the federal Medicare Part D drug coverage left a dozen or more low-income Tampa patients without transportation to get to dialysis treatment. The state paid for transportation; Medicare doesn't. Local governments are responding to emergency needs, but the state must find a permanent fix.

It makes no sense to provide a new benefit in a way that prevents existing patients from having access to the critical care they already were receiving. Hillsborough County commissioners deserve credit for acting swiftly to address an immediate problem and providing temporary transportation. While 13 patients have reported losing transportation - forcing some to skip dialysis treatment - county officials say they are only now assessing how many patients might miss appointments because of the change. At least a dozen patients face the same dilemma in Pinellas. "I think every single dialysis unit in Florida is affected," Juliet Venzara, the South Florida director for the National Kidney Foundation of Florida, told the Times.

Local communities can use existing county transit services, from ambulatory vans and buses to taxis, to help patients in the short term. But the state should figure out a permanent solution and provide this vital service that already was being provided. Dialysis patients should not lose their rides to treatment just because Washington has taken over their prescription drug coverage from Tallahassee.

[Last modified January 20, 2006, 06:48:08]

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