Promoted by Steven D, and many thanks to Street Kid for keeping us up to date on these issues.

An article in the
Chigaco Tribune
states that senior citizens in Chicago are paying more for their prescriptions now that Medicare D has taken effect, than if the same prescriptions were purchased in Canada or on Drugstore.com.

According to Democratic staff members who compared the prices,

a package of 10 popular medications bought in Chicago under Medicare’s drug program cost 65 percent more than a similar package purchased at Canadian drugstores.

And,

if a consumer had bought the 10 drugs on Drugstore.com, her costs would have been 6 percent lower, the report said.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky D-Ill, stated on Friday,

“The conclusion is, private [Medicare] drug plans are no great bargain.”

As Medicare is no longer permitted to negotiate for the best prices under legislation enacted by Congress, prices for rx’s are higher under Medicare D than they are under the VA.

continued
As written by Senator Dick Durbin,

The Medicare bill was drafted with the most powerful Republican donors in mind: pharmaceutical and insurance companies. This is contrary to Mr. Novak’s assertion that the bill was an attempt by Mr. Rove to court traditionally Democratic constituencies…

…little can be done by Republicans beyond convincing “seniors and conservatives that the program is really not that bad.” Americans expect us to put their interests ahead of special interests. Republicans should join Democrats in their plan to extend the enrollment period and in efforts to allow Medicare to offer drug coverage directly and to negotiate prices much as the Department of Veterans Affairs does.

One of the consequences of the prohibition against negotiating prices is that the taxpayers are the ones who are ultimately picking up the tab for increased costs.  

And

convincing “seniors and conservatives that the program is really not that bad.”

is exactly what Bush attempted to do.

In his radio address, he stated,

“When you make a big change in a program involving millions of people, there are bound to be some challenges…And this has been the case with the new drug coverage…We have also acted to ensure that phone calls to the Medicare help line are now answered with little or no waiting time, and we’re working with insurers to help them do the same on their phone lines.”

Bush also insisted that due to increased competition, Medicare D is getting less expensive. However,

…Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said,

Medicare officials had lost credibility. “They tell us that prices are amazingly low when seniors can see with their own eyes that that isn’t the case.”

Despite that, he has also urged those w/family members to assist them in signing up for a Medicare D plan!

A brief review of earlier information re:  Medicare D:

According to the BBC,  Bush’s responded by

…celebrating a major legislative victory after Congress approved the biggest overhaul of the country’s health care plan for elderly and disabled people since its creation nearly 40 years ago.

It is now 2006.  As Medicare D was enacated in 2003, there was ample time to perfect its implementation.

People who have been either seriously ill or in the hospital, such as  

 Sacramento resident Randi Sanford, 50, who has cystic fibrosis, had to go without the antibiotic infusions she needed to fight an infection because the new Medicare prescription drug benefit would not cover the procedure when administered at home.

  John Slack, 66, went to Kaiser Permanente’s hospital in San Rafael earlier this month to pick up nine prescriptions, including medications to fight rejection from a liver transplant. But the pharmacist told him he couldn’t get his drugs because he had been switched to a different health plan.

  Patricia Franks, 69, of Gerber in Tehama County had to borrow blood pressure medication from a brother-in-law after her pharmacist refused to fill her prescriptions.

  San Francisco’s Johnny Wilson, 49, who is HIV-positive, had his medication only because he had laid in a three-month supply before the new program started. By the time he got his Medicare drug card, he was down to his last few pills.

Now, conflicting numbers

The Department of Health and Human Services says 24 million of the 42 million eligible Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled. Others say only 3.6 million have voluntarily enrolled in the new prescription drug plans.

Use of the higher numbers imply that Medicare D is extemely successful and gives rx coverage to those who formerly lacked it, although many have been forced into a higher priced rx plan, when they were previously covered under Medicaid.

Use of the lower numbers, describe a government program that is struggling, that many feel is a failure.

An interesting comment from Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., during a congressional hearing last week:

“I was proud to support this bill, but this has been a fiasco…This has been botched and bungled every step of the way.”

Conrad further described those who felt Medicare D was undergoing

“growing pains…[as]…detached from reality.

Then continued

“There has been no greater government failure since Katrina.”

In light of the circumstances regarding FEMA and the response of this administration during Hurricane Katrina, it is also very important to remember the following statements that were made:

Senator 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 this one, by Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, re: 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.’

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