Bush Urges Enrollment in Medicare Drug Benefit
President Bush on Wednesday urged Medicare beneficiaries who are non-English speakers to enroll in the prescription drug benefit, saying the program would save them money, the Washington Post reports.
Speaking to about 400 Chinese, Filipino, Korean and Vietnamese seniors at an event in Annandale, Va., Bush said assistance is available to help non-English speakers enroll in the drug benefit. May 15 is the last day beneficiaries can enroll without paying a penalty.
"There are seniors from all walks of life, some of whom require a little special help to learn what's available," Bush said (Rein, Washington Post, 4/13). "I'm trying to show that our government reaches out to people in all walks of life and in all neighborhoods," he said (Benedetto, USA Today, 4/13).
Most audience members wore headsets offering translations of Bush's speech in Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Vietnamese and other languages.
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, who joined Bush at the event, said brochures were available in various languages to help non-English speakers understand the drug benefit (Washington Post, 4/13). Chao said non-English speakers also can call government phone lines and speak with someone in their native language (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/13).
Bush, administration officials and advocacy groups are holding enrollment events across the country in the coming days as part of what the administration has termed "Medicare Rx Get Enrolled Week," CongressDaily reports.
CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said the initiative will begin Monday (CongressDaily, 4/12). McClellan said, "Time is short. Our message is simple: Look into the program and avoid the last-minute rush" (Carey/Hopkins, CQ HealthBeat, 4/12).
Medicare experts will lead events at pharmacies, churches, senior centers and other venues across the country to encourage beneficiaries to sign up before May 15 (CongressDaily, 4/12).
Medicare Today, a national group representing more than 400 organizations, will sponsor events next week in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., to distribute information about the drug benefit and help beneficiaries enroll.
Mary Grealy -- president of the Healthcare Leadership Council, which is coordinating the Medicare Today events -- said, "We still have a big job ahead of us over the next few weeks."
My Medicare Matters, a partnership of the National Council on Aging and the Access to Benefits Coalition, will double its outreach efforts and provide laptop computers to workers to help explain the drug benefit to beneficiaries.
NCA President James Firman, said, "It's so important that people understand how the new coverage can help them."
In related news, Medicare Today released a study on Wednesday finding that beneficiaries who were uninsured prior to the drug benefit will save money with the program (Carey/Hopkins, CQ HealthBeat, 4/12). The study, conducted by the Lewin Group, looks at beneficiaries who previously had no drug coverage and who have at least one of five chronic conditions: arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and respiratory illness.
According to the study, the beneficiaries can save an average of 58% through at least one drug plan offered in their area compared with paying for the drugs out of pocket.
Separately, AARP released results of a survey showing that 78% of beneficiaries enrolled in the drug benefit are satisfied with the program, while about 20% say they are not saving money under the drug benefit (Frick, Washington Times, 4/13).
In other drug benefit news, America's Health Insurance Plans announced a new standardized form for drug plans to provide to beneficiaries who wish to appeal coverage decisions or request coverage for drugs with prior authorization requirements, CQ HealthBeat reports. Advocacy groups have said great variation in appeals procedures for different plans has made the process confusing and difficult.
AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said in a statement that AHIP collaborated with advocacy groups, physicians and pharmacy organizations to develop the standardized form to simplify the appeals and prior authorization processes.
"This effort demonstrates what our community can do collaboratively to streamline administrative processes," Ignagni said, adding that the form "is the first in a series of simplification efforts."
CMS spokesperson Peter Ashkenaz said the agency is asking drug plans to use the form as a "best practice" (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 4/12).
KPBS' "KPBS News" on Wednesday reported on Congressional Democrats' efforts to acquire federal reimbursement for California and 45 other states that provided emergency assistance to beneficiaries since the launch of the drug benefit in January (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 4/12).
The complete transcript of the segment is available online.
Audio of the segment will also be available online.