Newspapers Examine Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Information, Enrollment Issues
Several newspapers recently published articles that addressed the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Summaries appear below.
Long Island Newsday: Newsday on Saturday examined how prices for Medicare prescription drug plans -- "a crucial piece" of information -- remain unavailable, "making it difficult for 42 million Medicare participants nationwide to figure out the best coverage at the lowest cost" with enrollment scheduled to begin on Nov. 15, Newsday reports. CMS spokesperson Peter Ashkenaz said that the agency has not released the information because some plan sponsors did not submit the data in a format compatible with an online tool launched to help beneficiaries select a plan. Ashkenaz said that CMS officials decided to withhold the information until the agency has all the data to maintain a level "playing field" for plan sponsors. However, "it is unclear when that will be," Newsday reports (Ochs, Long Island Newsday, 10/22).
- The Los Angeles Daily News on Saturday examined confusion among Medicare beneficiaries about the new drug benefit. According to the Daily News, "many seniors have little knowledge about their own prescription drug coverage, let alone a new program that's only months away." The Daily News also examines "several variables worth considering" when selecting a prescription drug plan, such as premium costs, dual eligibility and the "donut-hole" gap in coverage (Pondel, Los Angeles Daily News, 10/22).
AP/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The AP/Post-Gazette on Monday examined the "dizzying" number of Medicare prescription drug plans available. Although plan sponsors have spent "major sums" to participate in the Medicare prescription drug benefit, "it remains unclear if it will be an earnings bonanza," the AP/Post-Gazette reports. Some analysts have concerns that, "if the cost of the program balloons and the federal deficit expands, the government will slash spending on the drug program, cutting into profits," according to the AP/Post-Gazette. However, plan sponsors "insist they have strengths that will help them lure in customers," the AP/Post-Gazette reports (Agovino, AP/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/24).
- Richmond Times-Dispatch: The Times-Dispatch on Monday examined how Medicare beneficiaries have sought to determine whether they will benefit from enrollment in the prescription drug benefit. Medicare beneficiaries must determine which prescription drug plans are "going to cover specific medicines and how much they're going to cost," the Times-Dispatch reports. However, the information remains unavailable (Booker, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/24).
Several newspapers also published editorials related to the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Summaries appear below.
Miami Herald: "Congress members should move now to fix foreseeable problems with the flawed Medicare drug benefit," a Herald editorial states. "Fortunately, pending legislation would provide good fixes," such as a bill introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) that would allow Medicare to "negotiate group-purchasing agreements with drug companies," the editorial states. According to the editorial, "That's a cost-containment measure that this benefit needs" (Miami Herald, 10/23).
Modesto Bee: Enrollment in Medicare prescription drug plans is a "situation ripe for confusion, if not tragedy," a Bee editorial states. According to the Bee, many people "depend on prescription drugs not just to make their lives easier, but to make them possible." Senior citizens "shouldn't need an accountant or a translator to help them decide among dozens of competing plans," the editorial states (Modesto Bee, 10/25).
Raleigh News & Observer: The selection of a Medicare prescription drug plan is "an onerous burden" for "people who simply need some assurance that the medical care on which their quality of life depends can be obtained at a reasonable price and without hair-tearing frustration," according to a News & Observer editorial (Raleigh News & Observer, 10/23).
South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Congressional budget reconciliation is showing signs of balancing the nation's books on the backs of the less fortunate," as several health care and other programs "are now on the chopping block," a Sun-Sentinel editorial states. Meanwhile, the Bush administration "won't tolerate any changes or delay to implementing tax cuts or the new Medicare prescription drug benefit" or tax increases to balance the federal budget, according to the editorial (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 10/23).
- Tennessean: The "simplicity and care that Medicare officials put into the start of the drug plan may have a lot to say about how well it succeeds," according to a Tennessean editorial. "The message needs to be readily understood, but it also needs to be right," the editorial states (Tennessean, 10/24).