Archive for Saturday, September 30, 2006

More insurers flock to offer nationwide drug coverage

September 30, 2006


— Seniors who complained this year about a dizzying array of choices for a Medicare drug plan may find themselves even dizzier when they shop around for next year.

Federal officials announced Friday that 17 companies have been approved to provide Medicare drug coverage nationally. This year, there were nine.

As a result, beneficiaries in Oklahoma, for example, will have 57 stand-alone plans to select from, compared with 42 this year. Beneficiaries in North Carolina will have 51 stand-alone plans to select from, compared with 38 this year.

New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have more than 60 plans each, while Kansas has more than 50.

In addition, beneficiaries can get coverage through one of dozens of Medicare Advantage plans. Such plans offer protection from other medical expenses, such as a visit to the doctor's office.

Many of the new plans are offering coverage that seniors have been asking for, such as no deductible or coverage in the so-called "doughnut hole," said Mark McClellan, the Bush administration's point man on Medicare. The doughnut hole is the gap created at the point when beneficiaries have to pick up all of their drug costs.

"The new options that are available are primarily options that provide enhanced coverage," McClellan said. "The number of variations for basic coverage have gone down significantly."

Critics of the program said the benefit is getting more complicated, not easier.

"The incredible confusion that persisted throughout this year is about to get considerably worse," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, an advocacy group. "This is because there will be quite a few more plans to choose from, they will all be different from each other, and seniors will have a much shorter time period to make decisions about enrollment."

Beginning Nov. 15, seniors have until the end of the year to enroll in a drug plan. During the program's start-up, they had about six months to enroll.

McClellan's comments came as the Department of Health and Human Services formally announced Friday which plans Medicare beneficiaries will have available to them during the benefit's second year. The officials said the monthly premium that beneficiaries pay next year will average $24 - about the same as in 2006.

Seniors happy with their drug coverage this year - and surveys indicate that most are - won't have to do any shopping if they want to stay with their plan, said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt.


Godot 11 years, 7 months ago

Competition is beautiful. It may take a year or two, but this will force the pharmas to reduce what they charge for prescription drugs. In fact, it is happening already - look at WalMart's $4 generic drug.

Things will work themselves out if we make people aware of the outrageous cost of health care. When people do not have to pay anything for their health care, if they do not have a "do-nut hole" to slip into, or a deductible or co-insurance, their reality is that health care is "free."

Health care, particularly if it is paid for by your employer-provided benefit plan, is not free. You pay much more than you should (considering the lower wage you accept in return for your employer providing the benefit as part of your compensation) because you do not have the option to "shop."

Godot 11 years, 7 months ago

I am waiting for WalMart to have a doc-in-a-box in every Super WalMart. I can see WalMart doing this in a manner that is so efficient, operating on such a huge volume, that, if the uninsured go to WalMart clinics,they will pay less for health care than the insured ones do, utilizing their health plans that they have to pay for.

The optometrist at the Lawrence WalMart does not accept my vision plan, but the prices there are less they would be if I utilized my visions plan at other optometrists who accept it. So, I am going to shop for glasses at WalMart and cancel my vision plan and save another few bucks a month.

The luxurious buildings, the low-light waiting rooms and private hospital rooms appeal to those who have the money to pay for what is more than necessary.

We need basic health care available to every day people.

Godot 11 years, 7 months ago

Physician, beware. You have been operating without fiscal accountability for years. The HMO's tried to bring some restraint, but they caved to your demands.

The free market may eventually call you to account.

Godot 11 years, 7 months ago

And, in another attempt to bring this topic up for general discussion,

Yeah, babeee!

Godot 11 years, 7 months ago

Thanks, Marion. YOu are right, having a free market in health care is doom to the socialist-types.

If I could pay a doctor I know and respect $100 per month to be no retainer, regardless of whether I see him or her or not, I would drop out of my employer-provided health insurance plan and buy a hospital-only policy.

Hey docs out there, any takers?

Godot 11 years, 7 months ago

This article should be linked to Dr. Phillip Godwin's recent letter to the editor where he questioned the necesssity of adding a PET scanner to the services offered by LMH.

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