Friday, June 04, 2004

The new Medicare prescription drug cards hurt seniors

Why you're right:

1. Most seniors who enroll will pay more. Most seniors will pay more using a Medicare drug card than they could buying retail with no card at all. (House Government Reform Committee Study)

2. Corporations can lock seniors in, jack up prices. Once enrolled, Seniors can only change cards once, at the end of 2004. Corporations offering drug cards can change their prices - up or down - every week. (Washington Post)

3. Cards leave seniors vulnerable to fraud. The Consumer's Union calls considers the cards one of the most complicated government programs ever. Seniors must choose between 33 National and 40 regional cards, each with different prices on hundreds of drugs. Already, 17 states have reported scams that try to get seniors to buy fake cards or reveal personal information. (Seattle Times)

4. Seniors who enroll must pay a fee. In order to pay more for their drugs, seniors will be required to pay up to $30 per year to enroll. (Washington Post)

Why they're wrong:

Proponents are likely to focus on the benefits of the discount cards for very low income seniors - who actually receive a $600 subsidy. This is beyond dispute. But there is no reason to subject the vast majority of seniors who will not recieve the subsidy to such a flawed program for low income seniors to recieve this benefit. The target subsidy should be paired with an effective strategy that benefit all seniors. (AARP)

A Better Idea:

Allow the government to negotiate bulk discounts with drug companies. Doing so would make drugs available to seniors at half of what they would pay with a Medicare prescription discount card. (House Government Reform Committee Study)