Today (Friday) Federal Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt announced a plan to reimburse states that had to spend millions in emergency prescription drug costs for people who couldn’t get “signed in” to the new federal Medicare drug benefit program. The program includes 44 states — but Iowa’s not one of them.

Department of Human Services spokesman Roger Munns says as expected, it was a rocky transition. He says Iowa monitored carefully from the very beginning to ensure the program would work. Munns says there have been people who went to the pharmacy to discover they weren’t signed up for the drug benefits they thought they were, or who’ve been told their co-pay was wrong, and those cases were frustrating for clients and pharmacists. But the agency’s also found there weren’t any cases in which people were not getting life-sustaining drugs or essential mental-health medications. Because of that, the state held off creating the kind of emergency spending program many other states did to “fill in the blanks.”

D-H-S Director Kevin Concannon has said the main reason the program’s worked better here than in other states is that pharmacists “have gone the extra mile” to make sure people don’t go away empty-handed. Munns says Iowa certainly doesn’t have the Medicare drug-benefit program working perfectly, but so far there haven’t been the type of “emergencies” other states have had.