Soild reporting in today’s LA Times on the current state of affairs surrounding Part D. Here’s a link:
And here are a few of my favorite paragraphs …
WASHINGTON — With the first enrollment deadline a week away, the Medicare prescription benefit apparently is achieving its primary objective: helping millions of Americans get protection they did not previously have against one of the most draining problems of growing older.
By the May 15 deadline, federal officials expect to have more than 20 million seniors enrolled in plans under Medicare Part D, as the benefit program is called. That would include at least 7 million who previously lacked insurance for outpatient prescriptions. Of the millions who have signed up, many are enjoying significant savings, sometimes $1,000 a year or more.
And the performance of the drug plan, offered through private insurers, goes well beyond benefits for today’s seniors. The plan is a test of Bush’s idea that, instead of creating new federal bureaucracies, Washington can use businesses, informed consumers and market competition to solve knotty social problems such as access to healthcare — potentially for all Americans.
“This is the first full test of competition in Medicare,” said Joseph Antos, a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “It’s also a test of consumerism in healthcare.”
Medicare Administrator Mark McClellan said he had been working to make the program more user-friendly, and he pointed to a string of recent agency actions.
They include a directive limiting the ability of insurers to force patients to switch drugs; a standard appeals form doctors can use when a patient is denied a medication; and a set of common computer codes for pharmacists to communicate more easily with drug plans.
Around Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington, the new buzzword is “Version 2.0.” Next year’s Medicare drug benefit will feature fewer plans and better benefits, Leavitt said.
“We will see Medicare Version 2.0 much informed by what we have learned in Version 1.0,” he said.