Newspapers Examine Effects of Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
Several newspapers recently examined issues related to the new prescription drug benefit. Summaries appear below.
New York Times: The Times on Tuesday published a question-and-answer piece on the new benefit. Topics covered include eligibility, enrollment, out-of-pocket costs and Medigap policies (Pear, New York Times, 10/11).
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The Post-Gazette on Tuesday looked at how Medicare prescription drug plan providers are promoting their new products. Analysts say companies such as Humana, Cigna and Aetna will spend a total of $80 million on marketing and operational expenses in selling their plans this year (Snowbeck, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/11).
Wall Street Journal: The Journal on Tuesday examined how different pharmaceutical companies will be affected by the new benefit. In general, the pharmaceutical industry says it will see little benefit from the new coverage because of negotiated discounts, but analysts believe companies that have commonly used products with few generic competitors -- such as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson -- will see higher profits from the added coverage than companies whose products are more at risk from generic competition (Davies, Wall Street Journal, 10/11).
Wilmington News Journal: The News Journal on Monday examined the difficulties Medicare beneficiaries face when trying to obtain information about the new drug benefit through the Medicare help line. About 89,000 people each day call the help line asking about the benefit, but a recent Government Accountability Office report found that 29% of the beneficiaries' questions were answered incorrectly (Ratnayake, Wilmington News Journal, 10/10).
Several recent editorials and opinion pieces addressed the 2003 Medicare law. Summaries appear below.
BusinessWeek: Howard Gleckman, a columnist for BusinessWeek, examines how CMS has worked to "radically overhaul the way seniors get their health care" through increased use of managed care plans, reforms to the physician reimbursement system and more focus on preventive care through the 2003 Medicare law. According to Gleckman, some experts have raised concerns that Medicare has "experimented with managed care twice before" and failed. He concludes, "The pols have assured the public that a decade from now health care for seniors will be much different than it is today. The question remains: Will it be better?" (Gleckman, BusinessWeek, 10/10).
- Vicki Gottlich, Washington Post: It is an "understatement" to say that Medicare beneficiaries will face a large number of choices under the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, Gottlich, a senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy, writes in a Post letter to the editor. According to Gottlich, Medicare beneficiaries in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area will be able to select from at least 16 prescription drug plans. She asks, "What happened to the concept of Medicare as a unified, national program that could be used anywhere in the country?" (Gottlich, Washington Post, 10/8).
- Robert Moffit, Washington Times: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) "wisely" has called for the repeal of the Medicare prescription drug benefit to allow Congress to "go back to the drawing board and design a rational and responsible drug benefit," Moffit, director of health policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, writes in a Times opinion piece. He adds that the "more modest suggestion" by the Republican Study Committee to delay the Medicare prescription drug benefit also "is a big step in the right direction" because failure to offset the "massive spending increase" from hurricane recovery efforts "will lead only to a still-larger deficit." Congress "should help the minority who are too poor to buy private drug coverage, are ineligible for Medicaid or aren't covered by former employers," Moffit writes, adding that the current Medicare prescription drug discount cards "could provide immediate help to low-income seniors who need it" (Moffit, Washington Times, 10/8).