Newspapers Examine Medicare Drug Benefit
Several articles recently examined issues related to the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Summaries appear below.
AP/Hartford Courant: The AP/Courant on Tuesday examined the "dizzying" number of choices available under the new benefit and the actions health plans are taking to promote their offerings. According to Banc of America Securities, an average of 40 Medicare prescription drug plans are available per state, with monthly premiums ranging from $1.87 to $104.89 (Agovino, AP/Hartford Courant, 11/1).
CQ HealthBeat: The U.S. cannot "afford" the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, Comptroller General David Walker said on Monday at a forum sponsored by the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation and the National Press Foundation. "We were already in the hole $15 [trillion] to $20 trillion before Medicare Part D was enacted, and that's just for Medicare. And we added another" $8 trillion for the prescription drug benefit, Walker said. He added, "If that's not imprudent, I don't know what is." When asked whether he believes some lawmakers are correct in calling for a delay in the new benefit, Walker said "that's a policy decision," adding, "Let's just say we couldn't afford Part D of Medicare" (CQ HealthBeat , 10/31).
CQ HealthBeat: Consumers Union has launched a Web site that gives Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to share their experiences with the new benefit to help "track problems, abuses or successes in the program," CQ HealthBeat reports. In a statement, Bill Vaughan, a senior policy analyst for Consumers Union, said, "The public needs to insist that plans provide information on whether they will cover the safest and most effective drugs, and whether they will drop drugs or raise [copayments] and prices during the course of the year" (CQ HealthBeat , 10/31).
CQ HealthBeat: A new study prepared for the Kaiser Family Foundation by Avalere Health says that if enrollment in the drug benefit is lower than the 29 million eligible beneficiaries the Congressional Budget Office expects to enroll, the average premium in 2007 "could be as much as 42% higher," CQ HealthBeat reports. The study assumes that 12 million of the 29 million beneficiaries will be enrolled in the drug benefit automatically. If of the remaining 17 million beneficiaries, only 20% with the highest drug costs enroll in the benefit, premiums could be 42% higher in 2007 than premium levels if full enrollment occurred (CQ HealthBeat , 10/31). The study is available online.
- Money: Money on Tuesday published a Q&A column addressing the new benefit, including issues such as out-of-pocket costs, choosing the best plan and financial penalties for missing the enrollment deadline (Andrews/McGirt, Money, 11/1).