UPDATE: President Bush signed this extension into law.
Apparently medical professionals need to read every single line of every bill that Congress ever passes that the President approves, no matter how unrelated to medicine the bills actually are.
On October 1st of this year, all prescriptions for Medicare patients were supposed to be written on tamper resistant prescription pads. The idea is that this will cut down on prescription fraud and drug abuse. No more doubling the quantity, photocopying the prescription and changing the date, etc. And Medicare would not reimburse any costs of drugs that were not prescribed using these new pads.
Unfortunately, Congress has requested a six month extension, from October 1st to March 31st of 2008, because the vast majority of pharmacies didn’t realize that they had this new and very expensive requirement (the tamper-proof pads are very expensive to manufacture and pads’ manufacturers literally can’t print them fast enough) until the last few weeks, nearly 3 months after the law was passed. The reason is that this law was inserted in H.R. 2206, U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007.
Yeah, sure, I’m going to look for a massively disruptive Medicare prescription provision in a “supplemental” funding bill for the Pentagon and Katrina recovery.
Unfortunately, according to the NPR piece above, there’s no information whether President Bush will approve or veto the bill. But at least this time the bill stands on its own (Julie Rovner of NPR says it’s been bundled in with a few other health provisions for signature, but Congress’ Thomas legislation search engine doesn’t show that yet – S.2085 was passed on September 25 as a stand-alone), instead of being bundled into “must-pass” legislation.
Today’s lesson? Congressional bundling of unrelated laws together creates massive confusion and legal limbo and, quite probably, costs the government truckloads of money due to inefficencies. In this area, as with so many others, politics could use an injection of common sense.
CORRECTION: As Mr. Hayter below indicated, I incorrectly said that this requirement applied to Medicare, as opposed to Medicaid.