Monday, March 27, 2006

This is what Part D has done

From a good diary at dKos, here is what is happening to drug costs to the consumers under Part D of Medicare:
  • The drug prices offered here in Southern Maine by the ten leading private insurance plans for the ten prescription drugs with the highest sales are, on average:
  • Almost 80 percent higher than the prices the federal government negotiates for the Veterans Administration;
  • More than 60 percent higher than what consumers pay in Canadian pharmacies; and
  • More than 5 percent higher than what they cost when purchased from a reliable Internet dealer.

Why is this bad for Maine seniors who now receive the Medicare Part D benefit?

Because their out-of-pocket costs are higher and the purchasing power of the benefit is lower than they should be.

Because they will reach the so-called "donut hole" sooner.

That's the gap, between $2,250 and $5,100 in drug expenditures, where seniors are responsible for 100 percent of the cost of their prescription drugs.
There is no question that Medicare needed an associated drug benefit in order to provide the best treatments at the lowest overall cost. That's why Bush promised such a benefit when he first ran for President, and that's why he twisted the arms of the Republican Congressional leadership to get something - anything with that title - passed.

But the Republican Congressional leadership operated like, well, Republicans. They allowed the lobbyists for the Drug companies to write the bill in a way that they would not lose money. Also, since fulfilling Bush's campaign promise and the profitability of the Pharmaceutical companies were the priorities, little thought was given to how the plan would be implemented. The results has been what would be expected.

The plan is overpriced for the government while the conversion of beneficiaries from Medicaid has been a disaster for many beneficiaries who have the least abilitiy to deal with such problems. The problem is made worse because two days after the Part D was implemented the Department of Homeland Security started intercepting pharmaceutical shipments to individuals from Canada, apparently in an effort to force more elderly people to sign up for Part D.

Ultimately the plan will have to be made workable, and Medicare will have to start negotiating prices with the drug companies. The solutions will require more legislation, though, and the Republican Congressional leadership seems to have very little heart to consider and actually pass the necessary legislation.

So it is bad now, it will get better because it cannot be simply cancelled, and the solutions will take time to put into place. How much time?

My guess is that it won't be this year, and the real pressure to do something will start after Summer when a lot of people hit the "doughnut hole."


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