Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Falling into Medicare Part D's doughnut hole

Good editorial in the Oct. 6 N.Y. Times about the Part D Medicare pharmaceutical benefit. It omits one fact and misleadingly states another.

1. For some beneficiaries, the effect of the doughnut hole -- which leaves seniors paying 100% of their drug costs between $2250 and $5100 -- will be higher out-of-pocket costs after Part D became effective than before. For some, perhaps many or even most, Medicare beneficiaries -- including those whose drug use doesn't push them into the doughnut hole, as well as those whose utilization is at truly catastrophic levels, where Plan D kicks back in and covers 95% of drug costs -- Part D will be a boon. But it's promise is false for many who fall into the doughnut hole and aren't "lucky" enough to have catastrophic levels of drug needs.

2. The Times says Medigap coverage can be purchased to insure the doughnut hole. That's only true, I believe, if the beneficiary's drug plan offers supplemental coverage, and many don't. In many other cases, seniors who were unaware of the implications of the doughnut hole chose a drug plan that didn't offer supplemental coverage and was therefore cheaper than another plan that did offer the supplemental coverage at a somewhat higher price. This is confusing for young, healthy law students in my health law class; imagine what confusion was out in the land when seniors were sorting and evaluating their options earlier this year.
posted by Tom Mayo, 8:31 AM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter