Medicare bill would reduce wait for drugs

Medicare beneficiaries who are prescribed certain medicines must jump through some terribly outdated bureaucratic hoops to get them.

Prior authorization is required for Medicare beneficiaries to have some drugs paid for by the government program. Often, that can mean pharmacists must spend time on the phone with Medicare officials, or wait for faxes to provide authorization.

Yes, faxes.

A bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, and three other lawmakers could help. “In the commercial market, a process known as electronic prior authorization is widely used, allowing prescribers to request and insurers to grant (prior authorization) in a fraction of the time,” Johnson noted.

Approval of the bill, which has bipartisan support, would encourage Medicare to use the electronic technology to shorten wait times for those seeking medicines that require prior authorization.

Medicare officials should not need an act of Congress to adopt technology making everyone’s lives easier, of course. But if that is what it takes for the bureaucrats to get into the 21st century, lawmakers should enact the bill without delay.