Newspaper Articles Examine New Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
Two newspapers on Sunday examined the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Summaries of the articles appear below.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Journal-Constitution examined the financial subsidy available to low-income beneficiaries who enroll in the new drug benefit. To educate beneficiaries who might qualify, the Social Security Administration has begun sending information packets and applications for the subsidy to 20 million U.S. residents. However, advocates for seniors say the application is confusing for many beneficiaries who are cognitively impaired, disabled or very old. They also note that people seeking to commit fraud already have begun targeting seniors applying for the subsidy, calling to urge them to enroll in the drug benefit while asking for bank account numbers and other personal information. But despite the risks, some experts say that filling out the subsidy application is "worthwhile," the Journal-Constitution reports. According to CMS officials, the subsidy will cover 85% to 98% of prescription drug costs for beneficiaries who are eligible (Miller, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/7).
- Chicago Tribune: The Tribune examined the financial penalties that beneficiaries will face if they delay enrollment in the new drug benefit. According to the Tribune, beneficiaries who wait to enroll until after the initial signup period -- Nov. 15, 2005, to May 15, 2006 -- will pay up to 12% more in premiums each year that they wait. Advocates for the elderly worry that seniors who do not take many medications currently will delay enrolling in the benefit and ultimately end up being "pric[ed] ... out of the program," the Tribune reports. CMS officials and members of Congress say the penalty is necessary to keep costs low; insurers will need both healthy and sick beneficiaries to enroll so that they can spread their costs across a large number of beneficiaries and still profit. Meanwhile, early marketing materials for health plans and insurers prominently feature information on the penalty to encourage beneficiaries to enroll early (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 8/7).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online. 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.