Drug Benefit Premiums Will Not Rise in 2007
The average monthly Medicare drug benefit premium in 2007 will be the same as or less than the 2006 average premium because of competition among Medicare drug plans and negotiations with pharmaceutical companies, outgoing CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said Monday in a speech at America's Health Insurance Plans' annual conference on Medicaid and Medicare, CongressDaily reports.
McClellan said the average monthly premiums will be no more than $24, the same as this year (Lee, CongressDaily, 9/11). McClellan added that it is possible the 2007 average premium could be up to one-third lower than the 2006 premium.
CMS is expected to announce 2007 Medicare premiums on Tuesday.
McClellan said he expects a significant number of beneficiaries to switch prescription drug plans next year as those who enrolled in higher-priced plans in 2006 look to take advantage of the lower premiums being offered in 2007 (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 9/11). The enrollment period begins Nov. 15 (CongressDaily, 9/11).
According to McClellan, about 500,000 low-income Medicare beneficiaries who were automatically enrolled in the drug benefit this year will have to sign up on their own for 2007 coverage. He said those beneficiaries will not be automatically enrolled because they no longer qualify for Medicaid or other programs for which the government automatically enrolls beneficiaries.
However, the majority of beneficiaries who were automatically enrolled in 2006 will be automatically enrolled again in 2007, he said. CMS will urge all beneficiaries to enroll by Dec. 8, although the enrollment period will continue until Dec. 31, he said, adding that early enrollment will allow insurers time to process beneficiaries' information (CQ HealthBeat, 9/11).
McClellan said insurers who sponsor Medicare drug plans should educate beneficiaries about their enrollment options. He also urged insurers to inform beneficiaries of the so-called "doughnut hole" coverage gap and offer plans with coverage options during the gap (CongressDaily, 9/11).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.