Health insurers say flexibility in Medicare prescription plan design encourages competition, but pharmacists say the large number of options confuses consumers.

About 74% of the 802 pharmacists who participated in a recent survey commissioned by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif., said Medicare now offers too many drug plans.

Although 45% of the participating pharmacists said they have a favorable impression of the Medicare Part D prescription program, 91% said they “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement that the program is “too complicated.”

Only 2% of the participants strongly disagreed with the suggestion that the program is too complicated, Kaiser researchers report.

For pharmacists, having to deal with plan utilization management controls is a major administrative problem, and 21% say that problem is the problem that occurs the most often, Kaiser researchers say.

The pharmacists said getting through to Medicare and drug plan hotlines is also a problem.

Although only 46% of the 834 physicians interviewed say the administrative burden of the Medicare drug program is worse the administrative burden involved with typical private plans and 42% said the burden is “about the same,” 92% said that the program is too complicated.

Only 28% of the physicians said they have a favorable impression of the program, and 84% give implementation of the program a grade of C or lower.

“Most doctors with patients enrolled in Medicare drug plans report that at least some of their patients have experienced problems getting prescriptions filled,” Kaiser researchers write in a summary of their results.

About 10% of the physicians who participated said at least 1 patient has “suffered serious medical consequences” as a result of Medicare drug program administrative problems, the researchers report.