PLAN D–D FOR DISGUSTED
I note another dimension of the new Medicare “benefit” that Trudy Lieberman has analyzed so well in “Part D From Outer Space” [Jan. 30]. My wife and I belong to a large HMO/Preferred Provider Medicare plan, which includes prescription drug coverage. We were required to join Part D of Medicare and were automatically enrolled by the HMO. Our co-payments have increased sharply, and drug co-pays of $10 before December 31 are now $200-$300. Curious how hefty subsidies on one end precipitate large price rises on the other.
A critical point not mentioned in Trudy Lieberman’s piece on Part D explains why so many seniors are not signing up for it. Take as an example the AARP plan as offered before Part D. It is underwritten by United Health Care, a major insurer, which also covers (Medigap) doctor and hospital services not covered by Medicare, as well as prescription drugs. The monthly cost has risen every year and there’s no reason to believe it won’t continue to go up. True, it has a deductible, and Part D does not.
But seniors are wary of the new plan because although the Medigap portion will initially be roughly $70 a month less on average, the annual increases will soon wipe out that difference, to say nothing of hikes in drug prices. Last year my monthly AARP fee for Medigap and prescription drugs combined was $228. It was raised this year to $250. The other concern is that although the new plan has no deductible the co-pays are a free-for-all by both pharma and, yes, the druggists! Seniors thought the co-pays would be $5 per prescription. In my case, five are $28 and one is $56 monthly–on top of the $24 monthly premium. Will that rise every year?
Why will the cost of the plan go up every year? Private insurers cannot manage their overhead, which runs around 12 to 14 percent annually. Amazingly, Medicare is an efficiently run program with no more than 4 percent of its operating costs derived from overhead. As The Nation has argued before, Americans need a single-payer system to provide low-cost healthcare for a lifetime.
As an RN who works with Medicare beneficiaries, I find that Part D is a clear and present danger. Trudy Lieberman’s article was dead on, but I would take it a step farther. You don’t have to wear a tinfoil hat to see that Part D could serve a sinister purpose: to turn people off the idea of a national health plan. I hope the whole thing will backfire.