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Commentary

A Healthy Medicare Drug Plan
David Merritt, Newt Gingrich, The Boston Globe, 3-30-06

Media coverage of the of the newly implemented Medicare drug benefit has been overwhelmingly negative. The constant drumbeat of pessimism, however, has made the findings of recent surveys conducted by an insurance trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, something of a dog-bites-man story. The surveys, in fact, reveal that the vast majority of seniors polled reported no problems signing up for the benefit (84 percent), and a solid majority (59 percent) reporting that it was saving them money on their monthly drug costs.

In this article, Gingrich and Merritt discuss the survey's findings and encourage Congress to build on the program's early gains:

According to two recent surveys, conducted on behalf of America's Health Insurance Plans, of more than 800 randomly selected seniors enrolled in the Medicare drug benefit, 84 percent who signed up voluntarily experienced no problems enrolling; two-thirds say the benefits are worth the time and effort to evaluate their options and plans; 59 percent of self-enrolled seniors say they are saving money; and 90 percent of beneficiaries who were automatically enrolled, most of whom are poor, have had few problems getting their prescriptions...

President Bush and Congress enacted bold reforms in 2003, but the transformation of Medicare must not stop here. Experts estimate that Medicare will have a shortfall of nearly $22 trillion in the coming decades. Clearly, it is the perfect opportunity to take the next step toward saving Medicare.

The authors call for Medicare to enact additional reforms that embrace the principles of consumer-driven health care: Health Savings Accounts that empower consumers to control their own health care spending, quality and price transparency for all Medicare providers, and pay-for-performance standards that encourage healthcare providers to keep patients healthy, rather than just treating them when chronic or catastrophic illness strikes. Last, but far from least, "Medicare must make health information technology an essential part of the program."



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