Enrollment in Medicare Drug Benefit Begins
Enrollment in the Medicare prescription drug benefit begins on Tuesday amid both praise and criticism for the new coverage, which will cost an estimated $724 billion over 10 years, USA Today reports (Appleby, USA Today, 11/15). Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in the new benefit between Nov. 15 and May 15, and coverage is scheduled to begin on Jan. 1, 2006.
Beneficiaries can enroll as late as Dec. 31 to begin receiving coverage on Jan. 1. According to the Washington Times, the average beneficiary will be able to choose from 45 different plans.
Jack Hoadley, a research professor at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, said, "There's just a lot of different options -- and options within options -- that make it complicated for the average beneficiary."
Sara Rosenbaum, a health law and policy professor at George Washington University, said, "It's perfectly understandable to me that an individual who has never had to do a lot of shopping for health insurance would find this daunting."
CMS spokesperson Barbara Cebuhar said the large number of options gives beneficiaries the opportunity to customize their drug coverage and get the best value. "It's going to take a little more energy, but we are hearing people are excited about the coverage," she added, noting that CMS has hired 8,000 counselors to help advise beneficiaries who call the Medicare hotline with questions (Higgins, Washington Times, 11/15).
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas, (R-Calif.) said, "Competition is clearly working to make drugs more affordable" (USA Today, 11/15).
According to the Times, AARP is urging beneficiaries to study their options carefully before choosing a plan.
Cheryl Matheis, director of health strategies for AARP, said, "We don't want anyone to feel anxious or that they need to enroll the first day" (Washington Times, 11/15).
A number of newspapers published feature stories on the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Headlines appear below.
- "Medicare's Moment of Truth: Many Remain Confused as Signups for Prescription Drug Benefits Begin Today" (McDonald, Albany Times Union, 11/15).
- "New Drug Plan Starts Today: Advisers Say Research Needs Before Enrolling" (Pitzl, Arizona Republic, 11/15).
- "Sign-up Period for Medicare Drug Coverage Set To Begin: Confusion Over Program Continues" (Lipman, Austin American-Statesman, 11/13).
- "Effect of Drug Plan in Doubt: Medicare Program May Cut Coverage, Raise Cost for Some" (Kohn, Baltimore Sun, 11/13).
- "Medicare Maze: Welter of Drug Plans Poses Difficult, Critical Choices" (Salganik, Baltimore Sun, 11/13).
- "Seniors' Quandary: Which Drug Plan?" (Verdon, Bergen Record, 11/14).
- "Drug Benefit To Give Seniors Savings and Challenges; Enrollment About To Begin" (Krasner, Boston Globe, 11/14).
- "Answers To Ease Part D Concerns" (Boston Globe, 11/14).
- "Gather Data, Consider Key Factors Before Choosing a Plan" (Boston Globe, 11/14).
- "Tips on Choosing Right Plans" (Boston Globe, 11/14).
- "Where To Find Additional Information" (Boston Globe, 11/14).
- "Seniors Face Confusing Rx Plan" (Heslam, Boston Herald, 11/15).
- "Why is Drug Plan Complicated?" (Kelley, Charlotte Observer, 11/11).
- "Medicare Drug Plan Enrollment Starts Today" (Freking, AP/Chicago Sun-Times, 11/15).
- "Most Drugs in Health Plans: Coverage Generally Includes 80%-100% of Top 100 Medicines" (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 11/15).
- "Delaying Sign-Up for Drugs Adds Cost: Monthly Penalty of 1% After May 15" (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 11/14).
- "Medicare Drug Maze; As Time Runs Down To Register for the New Drug Benefit, Potential Users Face Hard Choices" (MarksJarvis, Chicago Tribune, 11/13).
- "Medicare Rx Signup Confuses Some" (O'Farrell, Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/15).
- "Medicare Drug Plans Abound" (Austin, Denver Post, 11/14).
- "Don't Be in a Rush To Change Drug Plan" (Tompor, Detroit Free Press, 11/15).
- "Drug Plan's Side Effects: Confused Seniors" (Markley, Houston Chronicle, 11/13).
- "Selection of Prescription Plan Complex" (Lee, Indianapolis Star, 11/15).
- "Seniors Are Finding Medicare Drug Plans Complex and Confusing" (Pugh, Knight Ridder/Lexington Herald-Leader, 11/12).
- "Rx Plan Flummoxing Seniors" (Armario, Long Island Newsday, 11/15).
- "It's 'D' Day for Medicare Drug Plan" (Luhby, Long Island Newsday, 11/15).
- "Seniors Weigh Options" (Kleinbaum, Los Angeles Daily News, 11/15).
- "Grasping the Drug Part: Medicare Program Can Be Confusing for People It's Meant To Help" (Burnham, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 11/13).
- "Study Before Choosing Your Drug Benefit; Your Financial Situation and the Medications You Take Will Help Determine Which Medicare Drug Benefit Plan Suits Your Needs Best" (Hatcher, Miami Herald, 11/13).
- "Drug Plans Hard Pill To Swallow" (Purewal, Knight Ridder/Monterey County Herald, 11/14).
- "Medicare Starts Signup for Drug Program" (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 11/15).
- "For Medicare Users, Options Are Dizzying" (Campbell, Newark Star-Ledger, 11/15).
- "So What's the Advantage With Medicare Advantage?" (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 11/13).
- "Drug Plan Means Decisions" (Bunis/McKim, Orange County Register, 11/15).
- "Your Guide to Medicare's Drug Plan" (Orlando Sentinel, 11/13).
- "The Medicare Muddle: Signup Starts Tuesday for the New Drug Plan" (Uhlman, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/13).
- "Picking a Medicare Prescription Plan Will Be Personal" (Uhlman, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/14).
- "Experts Advising Seniors To Wait on Medicare Part D Signup" (Fahy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/15).
- "Medicare's Drug Benefit Is Driving Seniors a Little Crazy" (Levitz, Providence Journal, 11/13).
- "'It's Just So Complicated': Seniors Open To, But Wary of, New Medicare Drug Benefit" (Booker, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/14).
- "Getting a Handle on Medicare Drug Plan" (Mussenden, Media General/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/14).
- "New Rules for Medicare Strike Panic" (Fisher, Raleigh News & Observer, 11/12).
- "Medicare: More Mystery Than Mastery; Computer Illiteracy Hurts Benefit Effort" (Olson, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 11/13).
- "Medicare Dance: Enrollment for Medicare's Part D Prescription Drug Plans Starts Today" (Olson, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 11/15).
- "Medicare Signup Likely To Confuse" (Adams, Salt Lake Tribune, 11/15).
- "Medicare's New Prescription Drug Benefit: The Most Frequently Asked Questions" (Salt Lake Tribune, 11/14).
- "Medicare Drug Headaches Are Looming" (Finley, Knight Ridder/San Antonio Express-News, 11/14).
- "Signup Starts for Medicare Drug Program: Sessions To Help Dispel Confusion" (Walker, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 11/14).
- "Medicare Web Site a Mystery to Seniors" (Olson, Knight Ridder/Spokane Spokesman-Review, 11/14).
- "Medicare Decisions: Play Your Cards Right To Get Best Medicare Deal" (Lade, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11/13).
- "New Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Brings Many Choices" (Fahmy, Tennessean, 11/15).
- "Marketing Convenience: Drugstore Chains Try To Sort Out Confusion Over Medicare Plan" (ElBoghdady, Washington Post, 11/12).
- "Considering Drug Benefits in Medicare Advantage" (Gearon, Washington Post, 11/15).
- "Press 'D' for Details; Before Enrolling in Medicare's New Drug Plan, Study the Options" (Gearon, Washington Post, 11/15).
- "Medicare's Part D as Plan B" (Hinden, Washington Post, 11/13).
- "Medicare Drug Plan Presents Options" (Lipschitz, Washington Times, 11/15).
- "Medicare Coverage Signup Starts Today: Prescription Drug Plan Takes Many Forms" (Mussenden, Media General/Winston-Salem Journal, 11/15).
Several broadcast programs also reported on the Medicare prescription drug benefit:
- ABCNews' "World News Tonight": The segment includes comments from CMS Administrator Mark McClellan and Medicare beneficiaries (Harris, "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 11/14). A related ABCNews.com story is available online. In addition, ABCNews viewers might submit questions for health care experts about the program online.
- APM's "Marketplace": The segment includes comments from Tricia Neuman, a Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of the foundation Medicare Policy Project; Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA; Medicare beneficiaries; and senior advocates involved with Medicare education efforts (Palmer, "Marketplace," APM, 11/14). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KPCC's "KPCC News": The segment includes comments from Jack Cheevers, regional spokesperson for CMS, and David Fink, spokesperson for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (Rabe, "KPCC News," KPCC, 11/14). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NBC's "Nightly News": The segment includes comments from HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt; Medicare beneficiaries; and senior advocates involved with Medicare education efforts (Reid, "Nightly News," NBC, 11/14). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.
- NPR's "Talk of the Nation": The program on Tuesday is scheduled to include a discussion of the "confusion" about the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Conan, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 11/15). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.
Additional information about the Medicare drug benefit also is available online. 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.