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Commentary

Filing the Doughnut Hole
Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute, 8-14-06

Turner, president of the Galen Institute, argues that the commotion over the Medicare coverage gap is unwarranted. She maintains that there are many options in the program for seniors who fear they may fall into the gap, most of whom are middle class. Turner contends that the program is not flawed and that these kinks will eventually be worked out over time.

In addition, at least 28 states also have pharmaceutical assistance programs that are compatible with Medicare. Seniors can find information at www.statehealthfacts.org States have proposed several ways to use state funds to coordinate benefits including providing "wrap around" benefits to supplement Medicare Part D coverage.

Further, seniors can start searching now for other options to change plans during the open-season sign–up period, which starts this November 15. The majority of the free–standing Medicare drug plans do offer coverage in the gap. In addition, seniors can choose the new Medicare Advantage plans that offer full–service health coverage, including prescription drugs and generally including gap coverage.

These are growing pains, not fatal flaws, for the new Medicare prescription drug program that impacts 42 million people. It's been nearly three years since the hot summer when the House and the Senate debated and then finally passed bills to create the new Medicare prescription drug benefit.

It's going to take time for seniors, companies, and the government to figure out a new system that involves choice and competition, and that calls on seniors to make informed choices to get the drugs and the plans that suit them best.



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