Prescription drugs in Medicare and the ESRD program

N R Powe
Seminars in Nephrology 2000, 20 (6): 535-42
Prescription drugs have improved the length and quality of life for many persons, particularly those with chronic disease. However, their contribution to total health care costs has been increasing, making it difficult for patients to afford necessary medications. Current Medicare policy, derived from statutory enactments by Congress, precludes payment for prescription medications with the exception a few medications for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients. A more comprehensive prescription drug benefit for Medicare has been proposed that might benefit ESRD patients. Design and implementation of a medication drug benefit involves several issues including what medications should be covered, under what circumstances, how cost should be shared, the payment structure, level of payment, and management of the benefit. This report describes the experience with Medicare coverage of prescription drugs for ESRD patients and explores issues in offering a general medication insurance benefit under Medicare.

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