updated 2/1/2006 7:38:51 PM ET 2006-02-02T00:38:51

Anticipating fresh problems with the Medicare prescription drug plan, the Bush administration is telling private plans they need to provide an additional 60-day supply of medicine for emergency cases.

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The move will give beneficiaries more time to find alternative treatments when their private plan won't cover a prescription.

The administration's announcement came as pharmacists warned that fresh difficulties were possible as participants use up their initial 30-day emergency supply of medication.

In a review of the program's first month, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt acknowledged Wednesday that there were problems with the startup. "I make no excuses," he said. "We own the problems."

He also warned that there could be further problems in February as new people enrolled or participants switched plans.

On a brighter note, however, he said that premiums were likely to be a third of what was projected because of competition. "Individuals can now expect to pay on the average only $25 a month," Leavitt said.

Mark McClellan, head of the HHS agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid, was giving his assessment of the program's first month in an appearance Thursday before the Senate Aging Committee.

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