Most Beneficiaries To Have Access to Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Plans With $20 Premiums
Medicare beneficiaries in all states except Alaska will have access to at least one stand-alone prescription drug plans with monthly premiums of $20 or less under the new prescription drug benefit, CMS officials said on Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Between 11 and 23 health insurers will offer Medicare prescription drug plans in each region nationwide, with average monthly premiums of $32.20, according to CMS officials (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/30).
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said Medicare prescription drug plans in some states will have monthly premiums as low as $10. In addition, some Medicare prescription drug plans might have zero-dollar deductibles or deductibles lower than $250 annually, and some might provide additional coverage, CMS officials said (CQ HealthBeat, 8/29).
President Bush and CMS officials said that the availability of Medicare prescription drug plans with monthly premiums of $20 or less indicates that private health insurers plan to compete for the new Medicare market. CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said, "No matter where you live, if you look and spend a little bit of effort, ... you can find a plan that's much less than people expected" (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 8/30).
Bush on Aug. 29 promoted the Medicare prescription drug benefit in speeches at retirement communities in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and El Mirage, Ariz. (Benedetto, USA Today, 8/30). Bush told Medicare beneficiaries, "You've got a fantastic opportunity to get prescription drug benefits," adding, "We don't want you choosing between your utility bills and your food bills and prescription drugs" (Fischer, Arizona Daily Star, 8/30).
Bush recommended that Medicare beneficiaries consider all available prescription drug plans, adding, "The more options available, the more likely it is you're going to get what you want" (Sidoti, Associated Press, 8/29). In addition, Bush explained the application form that Medicare beneficiaries must complete to enroll in the prescription drug benefit (Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/30). He also encouraged family members to help Medicare beneficiaries enroll in the prescription drug benefit. "All of us have a duty to find out what's available for our parents," Bush said (Hutcheson, Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/30). Bush also called the Medicare prescription drug benefit "a wise use of money" (Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/30).
AARP on Thursday announced a multimillion-dollar educational campaign to promote the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. On Sunday, AARP published a four-page color advertising supplement that will appear in most newspapers nationwide. The ad supplement will cost about $2 million and likely reach about 65 million U.S. households, according to AARP CEO William Novelli (Jaffe, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/1).
AARP also will publish at least 350,000 copies of a 24-page booklet that explains the Medicare prescription drug benefit, as well as place eight- and 12-page inserts in future editions of monthly and bilingual English-Spanish magazines published by the group (Lipman, Cox/Miami Herald, 9/2). In addition, thousands of volunteers will help Medicare beneficiaries complete applications for enrollment in the prescription drug benefit and answer questions as part of the campaign (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/1).
Novelli said that AARP plans to focus on low-income Medicare beneficiaries. AARP officials also said that the group, which has applied to offer a Medicare prescription drug plan, will not use the campaign to enroll beneficiaries in the plan. The campaign will extend past the mid-November the beginning of the enrollment period for the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and AARP plans to launch a separate $2 million ad campaign in October. Novelli said that AARP will "continue to devote resources on a long-term basis into educating seniors. ... AARP is a trusted and credible source of information on Medicare, and we will use this credibility to help Medicare beneficiaries understand that there is an important decision to be made" (CQ HealthBeat, 9/1).
Kathleen Harrington, director of the Office of External Affairs at CMS, said, "This is a huge challenge ahead of us, and their commitment is great, great news" (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/1).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.