HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson Criticizes Democrats Over ‘Misinformation’ About New Medicare Law
Many seniors are "somewhat afraid" of the new Medicare law (HR 1), largely because Democratic presidential candidates are "spreading misinformation" about changes to the program, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said at a briefing for reporters on Monday, the New York Times reports. "There's a lot of misinformation out there," Thompson said, adding that Medicare beneficiaries are concerned about what the changes will mean for them because they hear the measure criticized by many of the Democratic presidential candidates "night in and night out" on television news programs. Thompson "rejected" some Democrats' criticisms that Medicare beneficiaries will be forced to join HMOs to receive prescription drug benefits; that the law is "a big sop to the pharmaceutical companies and to HMOs and that there's not benefits there for seniors, or very few benefits"; and that the changes "will destroy Medicare," the Times reports. He added that HHS will send Medicare beneficiaries a two-page notice explaining the new law. The notice says that the law "preserves and strengthens the current Medicare program" and that beneficiaries "will still be able to choose doctors, hospitals and pharmacies."
In response, some of the Democratic presidential candidates restated their criticisms of the law, the Times reports. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) said, "There's a good reason people have a negative impression of the president's prescription drug bill. What does he expect from a plan that raises drug company profits more than senior citizens' prescription benefits?" Sarah Bianchi, policy director for Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) campaign, added, "John Kerry just tells voters what's in the law. Most of them don't like what they hear." Steven Elmendorf, chief of staff for the campaign of Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), said that many retirees are concerned that they will lose their employer-sponsored prescription drug coverage (Pear, New York Times, 1/13).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.