MEDICARE: Neediest Should Get Drug Coverage
While the White House and Congress debate who should be eligible for a prescription drug benefit, new studies are "bolstering the Republican argument" that the new Medicare program should go to neediest seniors, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. HCFA researchers John Poisal and George Chulis based their study on a 1996 government survey of beneficiaries. John Inglehart, founding editor of Health Affairs, said, "There is a core group of elderly -- those who are poor and those who have chronic illness -- who have the greatest need for a drug benefit."
All or Some?
Currently, the Medicare program provides no reimbursement for most seniors' prescription drugs. The Clinton Administration has proposed a limited benefit to all 39 million beneficiaries, whereas the Republicans "say it should be targeted more narrowly." Responding to the study, Medicare Administrator Nancy-Ann DeParle said, "We must not limit a benefit to those with low incomes." One of the studies noted that at least two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries currently have some type of coverage, generally from private sources such as HMOs and Medigap insurance, or state funded programs for the poor. Another study which reviewed claims by 375,000 Medicare recipients in 1998, suggested that seniors with chronic illnesses would continue to face "high out-of-pocket costs under a widely available but limited Medicare benefit like the one Clinton has proposed" (Love, 3/6).