Beneficiaries Have Mixed Opinion of Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, Survey Finds
Medicare beneficiaries are as likely have to a favorable opinion of the new prescription drug benefit as they are to have an unfavorable opinion, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released on Thursday, the Washington Post reports. The telephone survey, conducted earlier this month, included responses from 300 Medicare beneficiaries and had a margin of error of plus or minus six percentage points (Washington Post, 8/26). According to the survey, 32% of respondents said that they had a favorable opinion of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and 32% said that they had an unfavorable opinion. Thirty-six percent of respondents said that they lacked adequate information to offer an opinion, the survey found.
In a similar survey released by the foundation in February 2004, 17% of respondents said that they had a favorable opinion of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and 55% said that they had an unfavorable opinion (Freking, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 8/25). The new survey also found that 60% of respondents said they understood the Medicare prescription drug benefit "not too well" or "not well at all," compared with 37% who said they understood the program "very well" or "somewhat well" (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 8/25).
In addition, 22% of respondents said that they would enroll in the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and 33% said that they would not enroll, the survey found. Forty percent of respondents said that they lacked adequate information to make a decision about enrollment, according to the survey.
Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said, "The positive drum beat has caught up with the negative one. But on an individual basis, most seniors still can't answer the big question: 'What does it mean for me?'"
CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said, "The poll is definitely showing that more knowledge means more favorable views." McClellan added that, because many Medicare beneficiaries currently have prescription drug coverage through their former employers or unions, he "would expect a lot of people to stay where they are for their coverage" and not enroll in the prescription drug benefit.
The survey is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the survey.
On Wednesday, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) in a letter to McClellan criticized the explanation of the prescription drug benefit that appears on the Medicare Web site. Lautenberg wrote, "At this critical time, CMS should have a user-friendly, informative and easy to understand Medicare Web page." Lautenberg said that the explanation of the Medicare prescription benefit appears as the fifth link on the Web site and requires additional software to view.
A CMS official said that he had not reviewed the letter but added that the agency would consider recommendations to improve the Web site. McClellan said that CMS this fall will add new, "very interactive" features to the Web site (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 8/25).
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Tuesday at an event in Topeka, Kan., asked Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in the new prescription drug benefit as part of a nationwide campaign to promote the program, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports (Hollingsworth, Topeka Capital-Journal, 8/25).
Leavitt on Wednesday participated in a similar event in Oklahoma City (Killackey, Oklahoman, 8/25). He also participated in an event in Wichita, Kan. (Bjerga, Wichita Eagle, 8/23). On Thursday, Leavitt participated in an event in Omaha, Neb. (Aksamit, Omaha World-Herald, 8/26). Leavitt on Friday plans to participate in an event in Denver (Austin, Denver Post, 8/26).
Meanwhile, McClellan on Thursday participated in an event in Minneapolis (Olson, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 8/26).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.