Newspapers Address Medicare Advantage, Prescription Drug Plans

Preserve Seniors’ Access To Care

Funding: Recurring Medicare drug benefit financing problems create an opportunity for voters to “demand an adult discussion from political candidates about how they might fix this pivotal health program — what it might cost, what sacrifices might be demanded of taxpayers and recipients,” Los Angeles Times personal finance columnist Kathy Kristof writes. Changes to the program that have been suggested include raising the age at which people qualify for benefits, eliminating private Medicare Advantage plans, cutting wasteful spending, giving beneficiaries vouchers to make them more aware of the costs of treatment, raising taxes and increasing premiums (Kristof, Los Angeles Times, 6/24).

Medicare Advantage: Lawmakers are starting to take action to address beneficiaries’ complaints about Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug plans, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee last week heard testimony concerning problems beneficiaries are having in obtaining answers, help or changes for Medicare Advantage plans. In addition, an alliance of insurance companies last week said it would stop marketing private fee-for-service MA plans to individuals, and the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on Medicare plans and how they are carried out. Brian Webb of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners said, “If we had just had a new Medicare Part D (prescription) plan and a new private fee-for-service plan, there would have been a lot of complaints,” adding, “When on top of that, you take control away from the state, people can’t get their issues taken care of. And (Medicare) is not equipped to handle this” (Goldsmith, Raleigh News & Observer, 6/25).

Subsidies: The Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service should collaborate to locate and notify people whose incomes may qualify them for subsidies under the Medicare prescription drug benefit, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Friday, CQ HealthBeat reports. The report also recommended that SSA officials create performance metrics and benchmarks for outreach activities intended to identify potential applicants and establish management tools for appeals and redetermination decisions. Officials estimate that about three million eligible low-income U.S. seniors are not receiving financial assistance for a drug plan. In addition, 632,000 Medicare beneficiaries who received the subsidies during the program’s first year lost coverage and had to reapply (CQ HealthBeat, 6/22).

The GAO report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.

“Reprinted with permission from http://www.kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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