AARP CEO Addresses New Medicare Law, Prescription Drug Reimportation
At a Kaiser Family Foundation forum Wednesday, AARP CEO Bill Novelli said that he would "try to keep his group out of the political back-and-forth over the merits" of the new Medicare law, Roll Call reports. However, Novelli, who received "sharp rebukes" from Democrats for supporting the Republican-backed bill, said that "presidential politics are infecting debate over the measure," according to Roll Call, and he "took a swipe" at Democrats for using the law "for election-year politicking." Novelli said, "This is going to be a circus this year, and what we want to do is be educators," adding, "We're going to try to stay above the fray and not get into politics." Novelli said that beginning this month, AARP will start its own television and education campaign, which will instruct seniors to call a toll-free number to order an AARP pamphlet on the new law. According to Roll Call, the pamphlet "does not appear to be slanted either for or against the new law." Novelli also said that AARP would encourage Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in the program's new prescription drug benefit during its initial enrollment phase because the longer the beneficiaries wait to enroll, the more they might have to pay to join. Novelli also dismissed Democratic concerns about a provision of the new law calling for a pilot program in 2010 in which Medicare would compete against private health care plans; some Democrats say the program would lead to the privatization of Medicare, Roll Call reports. "The official position is: We think that premium support plans ... will not impair traditional Medicare," Novelli said. "My unofficial position is: They're just blowing a lot of smoke. There's not going to even be a pilot program" because the HHS secretary in 2010 will realize it is not feasible, Novelli predicted (Pierce, Roll Call, 3/4).
During the forum, Novelli also said that AARP would encourage the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America to allow the reimportation of lower-cost, U.S.-manufactured prescription drugs from Canada, the AP/Dallas Morning News reports. Novelli said that AARP will write a letter to PhRMA within the next couple of days advocating the group's support of reimportation. "The pharmaceutical industry is not easy to convince. We all know that," Novelli said, adding, "I don't know if they'll ever come around on importation. The least we can do is get them to not choke off the supply side, and we're working on that" (AP/Dallas Morning News, 3/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.