[From the diaries by susanhu. Another must-read by StreetKid.]
Senate Democrats told stories Thursday of weeping older people who were unable to get their medicine as Congress opened hearings into problems with Medicare’s new drug benefit.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said pharmacists in her state have had to take out loans because they could not get reimbursed quickly enough for drugs dispensed to customers who had no means to pay them. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said they met older people who were in tears when they talked about problems filling prescriptions.
“I for one believe we should scrap this and start over,” Clinton said.
Some republicans admitted to Mark McClellan that they have heard of similar situations, but feel that Medicare D should be fixed, not scrapped.
According to Elzabeth Dole,
“It is nearly impossible to avoid startup challenges, but we now we must identify those individuals who are vulnerable and make certain that their needs are met.”
How about people with disabilities, Liz?
According to Mark McClellan the government makes
“no excuses for the problems. They are important, they are ours to solve and we are finding and fixing them.”
So why haven’t you?
McClellan also stated that Medicare D is working for most people, and that the competition between private insurers re: the cost of the plans was driving prices down. Example: Premiums will average about $25 a month, as opposed to the $37. McClellan and his agency have now lowered the estimated start-up costs to $678 billion over 10 years opposed to $730 billion.
And, gwb, in his infinte wisdom, has decided to ask private insurers to supply senior citizens with another 60 day supply of their rx’s, in the hope that an alternative treatment would be medically appropriate!
Now from Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt,
“We’re seeing the cost of drugs come down in a rapid way because of an organized, competitive marketplace.”
Uh, Mike, do you recall this from Sen. Charles Schumer?
“He (Leavitt) seemed incredulous when I told him, but said he wasn’t really aware of the problems…I was surprised by that.”
And, Mark, how about this?
Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, states that he had a discussion with Mark McClellan, (Administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) EARLY LAST YEAR:
“I was sitting in McClellan’s office and I said, ‘Look, even if you get this transition 99 percent right for the people losing Medicaid coverage, you’re still going to have 64,000 people without drug coverage come Jan. 1.’ And [McClellan] said ‘No, we have everything under control.’
Pharmacists are trying to make this plan work even though it takes money out of their pockets. The plan is costing patients and the states more, too.
The blame should be placed where it really belongs: on insurance companies and their partners who can manipulate drug prices.
McClellan also said that the agency was trying to make the program
for a person to understand.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked:
“Even easier? It’s bedlam out there.”
The most serious concerns about the benefit center on the 6 million low-income people who had obtained drug coverage through Medicaid. In the transition to Medicare, a few hundred thousand may have had trouble because of data errors and because they switched plans late in the year, McClellan said.
Michael Donato of Mayfield, Ohio, told senators that his pharmacy tried to charge him $700 when he first tried to get his prescriptions filled.
“But what about the seniors?…What happens to people who don’t have the help I had? I hope that you will give them the assistance they need.”
What about others with disabilites who are unable to have the assistance necessary to figure out Medicare D(isater)?