WASHINGTON – The government is accepting applications from companies to offer pharmacy discount cards to Medicare recipients, despite a legal challenge.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, began accepting applications Wednesday for card sponsors.
Officials said they hope Medicare beneficiaries can begin enrolling in plans this September. The agency will not endorse any cards, however, until the legal challenge is resolved.
Under the program, Medicare participants could sign up for discount cards offered by private companies, which would use enrollees' purchasing power to negotiate discounts with drug makers and pharmacies.
The drug cards use no government money to help finance coverage. Medicare beneficiaries would have to pay an enrollment fee of about $25.
Representatives of large drug stores and community pharmacists have sued in U.S. court to block the plan, questioning whether federal officials have the authority to promote the cards without congressional approval.
A federal judge had agreed and put the plan on hold, saying the agency should have proposed formal regulations and sought comment.
The agency issued a revised plan last year and asked for public comments. It is still unclear whether the new proposal will satisfy the court.