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Selected news articles which highlight important policy issues.

News: Weekly Archives

News for the week of 11-17-2005

Problems Cited in Medicare Drug Benefit Sign-Up: On 1st Day, Seniors Report Confusion Over Choices, Frustration With Online Comparison Tool
Washington Post, 11-17-05

Editor’s Notes:

There is an overarching theme running through the media commentary on the new Medicare drug benefit: seniors are confused by too many choices.

The 43 million people eligible for the new benefit have at least 40 plans to pick from on average, reflecting the competition that Medicare officials say promotes lower costs -- but also more head-scratching. Moreover, one of the most efficient ways to get comparative information is via the Internet, a medium with which many seniors are uncomfortable or unfamiliar. …
Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said enrolling millions of people in the most significant new benefit in Medicare's 40-year history will be a "monumental challenge" but worth it.
"Enrollment may start off slowly, but we're confident that over time seniors are going to like the benefit," Leavitt said in a conference call with reporters late last week. "It saves them money. It helps them stay healthy. And it gives them the peace of mind that they need so that they'll never have to worry about losing their savings to the high cost of prescription drugs.

Experts seem to agree, however, that wading through the jargon will result in substantial savings for most beneficiaries. Many low-income seniors will also be eligible for additional assistance. Seniors also have until May 15 to make their choices for the coming year, so they have plenty more time to explore their options. Seniors whose current drug coverage is “creditable” (meaning as good, on average, as the standard Medicare Part D benefit) can also adopt a wait-and-see attitude, since they can change plans without penalty later.

Over time, as the bugs shake out of the program, and seniors become more comfortable navigating it, we’ll have a better sense of its advantages—and where it needs more tweaking.

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