November 15 begins the six-week enrollment season for Part D. The good news is that, in most states, beneficiaries will have 50 to 60 offerings to choose from, at least 10 more than in 2006.
According to an article in todayâ€™s edition of The Wall Street Journal, â€œWho should consider switching? Prime candidates are those who picked plans for this year that provided coverage of the so-called doughnut hole, or who fell into that gap and now want coverage for it. For a higher premium, some plans offer to cover drug expenses through the gap.â€
We'll see if smart providers start promoting this alternative.
Also according to the WSJ, â€œIn another shift, many plans are making changes that will reduce the chances that consumers will even reach the $2,400 level where the coverage gap starts. By eliminating co-pays for generic drugs in some plans, for instance, insurers are making such treatments essentially free to patients (at least until they reach the coverage gap). Aetna is dropping co-pays for generics in many of its plans, while Cigna says it is eliminating generic co-pays in all of its most basic drug plans.â€
How do we do it? Volume!
Further, the WSJ keys into the fact that, properly leveraged, market forces are increasing both choice and quality. â€œThere may be a huge market of potential shoppers. Only 20% of 3,400 beneficiaries surveyed last month by J.D. Power & Associates said they would definitely stay with the plan they had. About two million Americans will turn 65 in 2007 and also will be eligible. At least another four million, including three million low-income beneficiaries not subject to penalties for missing the deadline earlier this year, have yet to enroll.â€
Somewhere Mark McClellan is smiling.