MEDICARE+CHOICE: White House Reports ‘Troubling Trends’
Every Medicare HMO that provides drug coverage to beneficiaries will charge co-payments for medication next year, affecting more than 1.2 million seniors who currently have access to free drugs, according to a report to be released by the White House today. Many other Medicare+Choice members will have to pay higher co- payments for medications. On average, co-payments will rise 21% for brand-name drugs and 8% for generics. This and other "troubling trends" will be highlighted by Vice President Al Gore in a speech today to the American Medical Association, reports the New York Times, which received an advance copy of the report and prepared speech excerpts. The Times notes that Gore will use the report to argue that "Congress should approve Mr. Clinton's proposal to guarantee coverage of prescription drugs in both Medicare HMOs and the original fee-for-service Medicare program." Other report findings include the following:
- Several Medicare HMOs have reduced prescription drugs coverage for beneficiaries. Currently, 21% of plans limit drug coverage to $500 or less, but that number will rise to 32% in 2000.
- The number of seniors with "access only to the most expensive HMOs -- those with annual premiums of $960 or more -- will quadruple, to 207,000 next year, up from 50,000 this year."
- Some states, such as Iowa and Delaware, will see substantial drops in the number of Medicare HMO beneficiaries with access to drug coverage.