BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT
18 July, 2005: As the enrolment for the President Bush’s most significant domestic policy initiative, the new Medicare
program, is only 4 months away, opinion polls suggest that a large section of people have not heard about the new drug benefit scheme. Many of them do not understand it or have not decided whether to sign up for it.
According to federal officials the drug benefit would be a boon to retirees, worth $1,300 a year to a typical recipient and much more to those with low incomes. But none of the details like the monthly premiums and the names of covered drugs, will not be available until mid-September. Everyone enrolled in Medicare is eligible for prescription drug coverage.
People who are healthy see no immediate need to buy the Medicare drug coverage. And for those who are ill, the benefits seemed meager. And local insurance counselors are shuddered at the complexity of the
program, reports indicate.
Health policy specialists say the new benefit will generally be a good deal for low-income people, who are entitled to extra subsidies, and for people with drug costs exceeding $5,100 a year, since Medicare will pay about 95 per cent of the cost of each prescription beyond that point. People who have solid drug coverage from other sources, like a former employer or the veterans' health
program, may not see a need to sign up immediately for the Medicare drug benefit.
Federal officials face a huge task in trying to educate the 42 million Medicare enrollees about a drug benefit that differs radically from the traditional. More than 30 organizations are about to announce a coordinated national effort, including a television advertising campaign, to disseminate information on the Medicare
There are no clear estimates of enrollment nationwide. In the Federal Register of Jan. 28, the Bush administration predicted that 39 million people would receive drug coverage in 2006 through a Medicare plan or an employer-sponsored health plan subsidized by Medicare.