Seniors Face Hardship After Medicare HMOs Pass on Costs of Covering Medications
The San Diego Union-Tribune today examines the difficulties that many seniors in California -- and nationwide -- have faced since Medicare+Choice plans reduced or eliminated prescription drug coverage at the beginning of the year. Medicare HMOs vary in the ways they have adjusted their prescription drug benefits, with some plans requiring higher copayments and others dropping entire classes of medications and placing caps on drug coverage. The reduction in benefits, combined with rising drug prices, has put many seniors at risk of going without medications, the Union-Tribune reports. Dr. James Grisolia, a neurologist in Hillcrest, said, "The plans cut out a benefit that everyone, including insurers, patients, families, employers and pharmacists, have developed a system on. The result is human tragedy, feelings of powerlessness and threat of increasing disability. My Alzheimer's patients can't afford drugs to prevent their deterioration. And I'm seeing more and more patients with this problem." In addition, the number of calls received by San Diego County's Medicare Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program, has risen from 225 per month to 360 per month. "We've had so many calls about Medicare HMO benefit changes regarding drugs and all the other changes -- we can't return them all in a timely manner," Joy Parker, HICAP's program manager, said (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/27).