Under Medicare’s new prescription drug plan, which goes into effect in January 2006, beneficiaries will have to choose between the new plan and free meds offered by private drug companies. These and other aspects of the program are causing confusion among seniors and industry experts.
For example, the program won’t be administered by the Social Security Administration, which oversees hospitalization and doctors fees under Medicare. Private insurance companies will manage the plan. Implications?
This shift means that seniors must choose between drug plans with widely differing premiums, deductibles, co-payments and covered drugs. In Kansas, for example, Medicare beneficiaries have to shop for insurance among 40 plans from insurers such as Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group, which charge premiums from $9.48 a month to $67.88 a month. (Medical News Today)
Why is the new plan so confusing? When companies are allowed to compete for consumers, product choices abound. With a decentralized program, private companies can offer a wider variety of drug plans, which can become difficult to manage.
Last week the Philadelphia Inquirer examined drug companies that plan to eliminate charitable prescription drug programs in light of Medicare’s new plan. The drug industry gave away about $4.1 billion in prescription drugs last year, but millions of beneficiaries will no longer be able to obtain these drugs and stay with Medicare’s program after January 2006.
Medical News Today is an excellent resource for links and in-depth coverage of reactions to the new plan.