May 8, 2006


Satisfaction, frustration over new Medicare plan (Jodie Snyder, 5/08/06, The Arizona Republic)

As the final deadline nears on this year's new Medicare drug-benefit coverage, overall satisfaction with the benefit is growing, but patients and providers face even more pressure. [...]

As winter turned to spring, fewer problems seemed to be reported nationally and locally, with national polls indicating seniors are growing satisfied with the plans. Most of the calls to the Area Agency on Aging in Phoenix now are from people with questions about the May 15 deadline.

The government is declaring the new drug plan a success, saying that 8 million new members have joined and that now 30 million Medicare beneficiaries get some kind of help paying for their medications. However, victory is not clear-cut because most Medicare beneficiaries already had coverage through their employers or through federal and state governments.

For Loretta Nuzzo of Mesa, it is a total victory. The 82-year-old last year paid $737 every three months for five medications. Now, she pays $145.

"It's hard to believe. I'm going to enjoy it as long as it lasts," she said.

Nuzzo plans to use the extra money to pay for bills like higher costs for utilities.

In Arizona, enrollment has been particularly high, thanks in large part to many people signing up for the popular Medicare HMO-type plans. That's welcome news to the federal government, which sees the plans as a way to control rapidly expanding health care costs for the population of baby boomers.

Meanwhile, Democrats plan to win the elections in the Fall by campaigning against it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 8, 2006 3:43 PM

I'd hold off declaring the program a success just yet. The experiences I've had with my mother's coverage have been horrible and I'm positive the problems I've encountered aren't isolated to just her.

Posted by: mike at May 8, 2006 3:52 PM

mike, I had three people to walk through the system and spent a lot of time on the phone, but now it's working well and we are experiencing the same levels of savings as the lady in Arizona.

The monthly statements that show the savings in a simple easy to read format are an especially good idea and by the November elections, I doubt even the brain dead left will try to dismantle it.

Of course, I still don't like it, but hypocrite that I am, since it's there, I'll take advantage of it.

Posted by: erp at May 8, 2006 4:19 PM

There will always be anecdotal horror stories. But, for the most part, it takes a weapon out of the Democrats' arsenal and for me that is good enough.

Posted by: Mikey at May 8, 2006 4:29 PM

I sure don't like it either, mainly because it's a bureaucratic mess, costly, and hasn't translated into any gain for the GOP.

Erp, it may be working great for you, and I'm happy for that.

Unfortunately, if I have to spend hours and hours on the phone clearing up billing problems, have to get a waivers for medications that my mom has taken for years (I actually had a customer service rep for the company that BCBS farmed the admin for their prescription plans to try to pretend that he knew more than the rheumatologist that my mother uses), and get anyone to step up to do their job, then that cost savings goes right out the window. I was happy with her previous plan, albeit more expensive, because at least if she got sick, I felt confident that she would get the medication she needed, now I'm not sure at all.

And Mikey, don't go jumping to the conclusion that the horror stories you hear are anecdotal, and not an indicator of systemic failure.

Posted by: mike at May 8, 2006 4:45 PM


That's counterfactual. The transition has been surprisingly smooth, it's saving even more money than the Administration promised, and the fact that you don't read many stories about it anymore demonstrates it's not a political negative.

Posted by: oj at May 8, 2006 4:48 PM

OK, Mike, please tell us how to incorporate hundreds of thousands of people into a new/unfamiliar program smoothly.

Considering what has to be faced, it's not so bad.

Posted by: Sandy P at May 8, 2006 5:40 PM

I have helped seven old women in our rural community get on the system. One with drug expenses of $8500 per year will have drug expenses of $3400 per year. All will experience significant reductions in their out of pocket expenses. No problems to date. I do not like entitlement programs, but I will continue to help old people use the system.

Posted by: TGN at May 9, 2006 12:10 AM