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Families USA

NOVEMBER 4, 2005
11:31 AM

CONTACT:  Families USA
Dave Lemmon, Geraldine Henrich-Koenis
(202) 628-3030

A Confusing and Complicated Mess:
A Review of the New Medicare Prescription Drug “Plan Finder”

WASHINGTON - November 4 - In advance of the November 15 signup period for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, seniors across the country are trying to decide which Medicare prescription drug plan will serve them best. A review by Families USA of the new online Medicare Drug “Plan Finder” has found that the comparison shopping model used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is overly complicated and unreasonably burdensome for America's Medicare recipients.

The following is the statement of Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, about the drug-plan selection process:

"Accessing a needed prescription drug benefit should not be a bewildering experience for America's seniors. Depending on where they live in the country, Medicare recipients are faced with the daunting task of analyzing the fine print of anywhere from 27 to as many as 300 different plans. Seniors are required to navigate a confusing array of choices comparing different premiums, co-payments, deductibles, coverage gaps, formularies, drug prices, and pharmacy networks.

“To make matters worse, as we rapidly close in on the November 15 signup date, the main instrument for helping seniors compare those details—Medicare’s online "Plan Finder"—still doesn't work. But even if the confusing and complicated tool worked as planned, such a multi-step, web-based instrument is ill-suited to serve the Medicare population.

“What's even more troubling is that all of this confusion and complexity could have been avoided from the start. When Congress and the President enacted the prescription drug benefit, they caved in to the pressure of the drug lobby: They prohibited Medicare from bargaining for cheaper prices. Additionally, to ensure that this would never change, they prevented Medicare from administering the benefit and, instead, delegated it to private plans, which have far less bargaining clout.

“As a result, Congress and the President not only made the drug benefit more expensive for taxpayers and seniors, but they also created a confusing and complicated system that is leaving most seniors bewildered. Ultimately, the best way to remedy these problems is to allow Medicare to administer the benefit and to directly negotiate for better prices with the drug companies.”


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