New York Times Examines ‘Difficulties’ With New Medicare Law
The New York Times on Monday examined the "difficulties" over the provisions and implementation of the new Medicare law.
According to the Times, some experts and advocates have said that the Medicare law has "two broad problems so far" -- the law places an "emphasis on private market forces and consumer choice," which "has made it too complicated for many elderly beneficiaries" and remains "at the center of a poisonous partisan debate that shows no sign of easing."
The experience with the new Medicare prescription drug discount card program, in which 4.5 million of an expected 7.3 million beneficiaries have enrolled, provides evidence of the confusion over the Medicare law, according to the Times. Many Medicare beneficiaries "have apparently found it difficult to choose among dozens of cards offering different discounts on different drugs," the Times reports.
As a result, some experts and advocates have raised concerns about the potential confusion among beneficiaries when the new Medicare prescription drug benefit takes effect in 2006. Under the Medicare prescription drug benefit, beneficiaries will select among a number of private plans that will offer different copayments, coverage levels and pharmacy networks, the Times reports.
Thomas Snedden, director of the Pennsylvania senior prescription drug assistance program, said, "The experience of the last 10 months ought to give pause to anyone trying to bring up the benefit in 2006. It's really important to keep things simple and not confuse people with too much choice."
Tricia Neuman, a Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of the foundation Medicare Policy Project, added, "The stakes are pretty high. Seniors are very much unaware of what's coming their way."
At the same time, lawmakers remain divided over the Medicare law, with "lingering bitterness over the cost estimates used to justify the law's passage," the Times reports.
Many Republicans have said that Democrats are "largely responsible for the negative views of the law," according to the Times. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, "Week after week, month after month, we have attack after attack."
However, some Democrats have said that the Medicare law is a "bad law," the Times reports. Many congressional candidates also have discussed the Medicare law in their campaigns. Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin said, "Democrats are raising the Medicare bill against Republicans more often than Republicans are raising it as an accomplishment -- by a factor of at least five to one."
David Winston, president of the Republican polling company the Winston Group, said, "The new Medicare law has given us a level of credibility to engage in the debate on health care in a fuller way than we've been able to do in previous election cycles. It's a relatively complicated law, and people are still forming their opinions of it" (Pear/Toner, New York Times, 10/11).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Monday reported on the replacement drug demonstration project, a "little-known" provision of last year's Medicare law that helps pay for beneficiaries to receive some "very expensive" prescription drugs at home instead of at a physician's office. The segment includes comments from CMS Administrator Mark McClellan; Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center; and Medicare beneficiaries (Silberner, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/11). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.