Definition of Rural in the Context of the MMA Access Standards for Prescription Drug Plans


Access to local pharmacy services is dependent upon the extent to which prescription drug plans offering the Medicare benefit incorporate local rural pharmacies into their provider networks. This will be based on market considerations and on the requirements for local access contained in the MMA and regulation, which in turn will be shaped by how "rural" is defined. This paper assesses how the definition of rural affects the potential impact of the specific access standards in the Proposed Rule to implement Title I of the MMA, and finds that the congressional objective to achieve convenient access to pharmacies (other than mail order) would be more fully realized if the Proposed Rule definition of rural is changed.

North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center, RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis
Keith Mueller, Rebecca Slifkin, Michael Shambaugh-Miller, Randy Randolph