Report Card Shows Seniors Pay More Under Part D Than Under Other Drug Plans
Older Americans in Medicare’s Part D prescription drug program are more likely to pay at least $300 a month for medicines than those on other plans, a study published Tuesday by the journal Health Affairs has found. Experts consider the poll of more than 16,000 seniors, performed by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, and the Tufts-New England Medical Center, the closest thing yet to a “report card” on Part D. The study found that eight percent of seniors in the government’s Medicare plans spent $300 or more out-of-pocket for drugs, compared with 5 percent for both those covered by the Veterans Affairs Department, which negotiates prices for drugs it covers, and those covered by workplace insurance. Medicare recipients were also more likely to delay or forgo filling prescriptions because of the expense, with one in five enrollees saying they had put off or even skipped getting some medications because of Part D’s high costs. Part of the reason so many beneficiaries are having difficulty paying for their medications is that many low-income seniors apparently do not know that they can get additional government subsidies to lower their costs, the survey indicated. Congressional Democrats, who have proposed expanding the number of seniors eligible for such subsidies by cutting overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans, seized on the findings as evidence that the benefit is not working well for those who need it most: seniors who have several chronic illnesses and must take a number of medications. “What we have in this report is incontrovertible evidence that prohibiting the government from negotiating lower drug prices has hurt seniors,” said George J. Kourpias, President of the Alliance.
Insurance Companies Targeting Early Retirees
According to a recent report by The Wall Street Journal, health insurance companies are targeting those who are least likely to be covered by their employers, including early retirees who are too young to qualify for Medicare. Retirees aged 50-64 are the second-fastest growing group of uninsured Americans, as increasing numbers of companies cut retirement benefits and leave them stuck in a gap after stopping work and before Medicare eligibility. While some companies have already begun marketing their individual medical policies to older Americans, others plan to release specially designed packages for retirees in the next few months. However, some are critical of the new plans, mainly available in states where laws allow insurers greater ability to choose only the healthiest customers. Nationally, an average 30% of 60- to 64-year-olds who apply for a new health insurance policy is rejected. To make premiums more affordable, many early retirees are choosing plans with deductibles as high as $5,000 or $10,000 and fewer benefits, in exchange for premiums as low as $84 a month. “The number of early retirees who are uninsured is unacceptable,” said Edward Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “America has an obligation to make sure every retiree has health insurance and proper medical care.”
Medicare to Stop Paying for Hospital Errors
With a new policy designed to save both lives and money, Medicare will stop reimbursing hospitals for the treatment of preventable infections and errors acquired or taking place on hospital grounds. According to a recent article in The New York Times, “conditions that could reasonably have been prevented” and will not be paid for include bedsores, injuries from falls within hospitals, and catheter infections, as well as mistakes such as providing incompatible blood to a patient or leaving an object inside a patient during surgery. While the new rule is expected to save Medicare at least $20 million each year, it is also seen as a means to improve patient care and safety. Doctors may adhere more strictly to hospital procedures and guidelines, and more tests may be administered to patients as they are admitted in an effort to determine exactly when these conditions develop. Hospitals are also forbidden by the law to charge patients for any associated costs Medicare will not pay. “This is a great demonstration of the power and influence of traditional Medicare on patient care when the program is used as originally intended,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.
State Alliances to Gain Even More Through Alliance Travel Benefit
Don’t forget to take advantage of the NEWEST ALLIANCE BENEFIT! Book your travel with our new Alliance for Retired Americans travel web site and support your State Alliance. Comparably low priced as the best web travel sites, every time you buy a plane ticket and book a hotel or cruise, the National Alliance will now give ALL of our royalties from your trip to your State Alliance. Access this great benefit from our web site at http://www.retiredamericans.org or http://www.ytbtravel.com/retiredusa.
Just Ten Days Until Legislative Conference!
In just over a week – September 4-7, 2007 – the Alliance will hold its National Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. Please note that exhibits are open only on the first day of registration, Tuesday, September 4th, from 10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Come early for a drawing of a $250 prize, free T-Shirts, give-a-ways and more! The actual conference program begins on the 4th at 1:30 p.m., with a theme this year of “Building for America’s Future.” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), candidates for the Democratic nomination for U.S. President in 2008, will speak. Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), is also confirmed, and we are working with other presidential candidates on their availability. The President’s Award will be presented to Elmer Blankenship, President of the Indiana Alliance, for his lifetime of public service on behalf of older Americans. The Leadership Award will be presented to Sen. Debbie A. Stabenow (D-MI) in recognition of her years of outstanding leadership in the U.S. Congress on behalf of older Americans. To obtain copies of the official registration form, either call 1-888-373-6497, email Joni Jones at email@example.com or visit our website at http://www.retiredamericans.org. The conference will be held at the Hilton Washington and Towers. Hotel reservations must be made by calling the Hilton and Towers directly at 1-888-324-4586. Be sure to ask for the Alliance for Retired Americans National Legislative Conference attendee rate.
Alliance for Retired Americans
815 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006