California Healthline Features Articles on New Medicare Law
Several articles published on Tuesday addressed issues related to the new Medicare law (HR 1). Summaries of the articles appear below.
- Medicare HMO enrollment: Several private health insurers next month will begin promotional campaigns to convince Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in their Medicare HMO plans and "lure them away from the government-run Medicare program," the Wall Street Journal reports. Under the Medicare law, the federal government will increase reimbursements for Medicare HMOs by an average of 10.6% this year, compared with recent annual increases of about 2%. As a result of the increased reimbursements this year, premiums likely will decrease for about 93% of beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare HMOs, and about 60% likely will receive improved benefits, according to AAHP-HIAA. The Bush administration and many Republicans support efforts by health insurance to enroll more beneficiaries into Medicare HMOs, which they maintain can provide more benefits and reduce costs. However, Democrats maintain that as a result of such efforts, Medicare "will be weakened and seniors will end up with widely differing benefits depending on where they live," the Journal reports (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 2/24).
- Medicare law survey: The number of beneficiaries who support the Medicare law increased to 26% this month, compared with 16% in December, according to a Harris Interactive poll. About 41% of beneficiaries said that they oppose the Medicare law, and about 32% said that they did not have adequate information to hold an opinion on the law, the poll found. Harris conducted the poll online between Feb. 10 and 12. The poll included responses from 2,054 U.S. adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points (Wall Street Journal Online, 2/24).
- Prescription drug benefit: The Washington Post addressed reader questions about the Medicare prescription drug benefit. The article also addressed questions about Medicare prescription drug discount cards, Medigap coverage and other revisions to Medicare (Barrett Mann, Washington Post, 2/24).
- Prescription drug use: Implementation of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit will likely increase overall medication use and use of "pricier drugs, currently beyond the reach of most uninsured senior citizens," the Wall Street Journal reports. Some of the latest and most effective treatments for diseases common in seniors, such as osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, cost between $7,000 and more than $20,000 per year. Under the prescription drug benefit, Medicare will cover 95% of the cost of medications for beneficiaries whose annual out-of-pocket prescription drug expenditures exceed $5,100. In addition, although the prescription drug benefit could "crimp demand" for medications from beneficiaries whose "former employers drop or reduce their drug coverage" for retirees, "on the whole, the new benefit is still likely to increase, not damp, sales of some expensive medicines," the Journal reports (Hensley, Wall Street Journal, 2/24).