Magazine article Drug Topics

Public Health Experts Offer Ways to Reform Part D

Magazine article Drug Topics

Public Health Experts Offer Ways to Reform Part D

Article excerpt

Our current system is not working and needs reform was the take-away message from a three-hour workshop examining both Medicare Part D and the future of drug pricing. Held at the American Public Health Association's 134th Annual Meeting, which convened in Boston in November, the workshop included speakers discussing the various issues surrounding the drug benefit and potential methods for reform.

Initiating the discussion was Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Region I director, Adele Pietrantoni, Pharm.D. As she told the audience, although plan premiums are projected to remain at an average of $24/month for 2007, the average deductible will go upfrom $250 to $265. The out-of-pocket threshold will also increase to $3,850 in 2007. "The law mandates CMS to make annual adjustments to standard benefits, so basically everything is going up a little," she said. Medicare Part D plans for 2007 are now available on the www. medicare.gov Web site. "A satisfied beneficiary doesn't have to change, but we encourage everyone to look at the options for 2007."

Projecting a slightly different take on the status of Part D was J. Warren Salmon, Ph.D., professor at the College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois in Chicago. "Because it was such a complicated program, it was bound to have major problems," he said. Policy planning and implementation needed to be a lot more detailed, and basic issues such as health literacy and the cognitive function of recipients were not properly addressed. "Vulnerable populations under Part D were not even on the radar screen."

Speaking on behalf of dualeligibles, known affectionately as "medi-medis," was Meghana Desai, B.Pharm., MBA, Ph.D. doctoral student, University of Illinois at Chicago. During her presentation, she said there were inherent problems right from the beginning, citing the fact that most seniors do not know how to use the Internet and very few even have access to computers, a method by which Medicare expected the elderly to learn about and enroll in their plans.

The results of Desai's research on the drug benefit showed that the so-called education of seniors was a failure. "There needs to be some sort of community-based outreach by Medicare, not just mass mailings, Internet use, and an 800-number," she pointed out. …

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