One year after President Bush signed the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, 53% of seniors who voted in the November election said they knew of the law's prescription drug benefit and 33% said they were likely to sign up for the benefit, according to poll of 1,400 Americans. Seven out of 10 Americans polled opposed cutting Medicare hospital reimbursement to reduce the federal deficit, and less than 1% favored cutting federal healthcare programs as a first step in deficit reduction. The poll was released by the Federation of American Hospitals. Read the results.
Separately, a University of Pennsylvania healthcare economist argued that Medicare, which will require higher-income beneficiaries to pay a greater share of costs under the drug benefit, should extend economic means testing to expensive new technologies. New technologies comprise the largest share of real Medicare spending growth, he said. An accompanying response criticized the proposal as "less about assuring better care for low-income people than about greatly reducing coverage for the middle class and above." Read the articles on health affairs.org.
Meanwhile, HHS announced the nine disease-management organizations that will participate in a pilot program authorized by the Medicare act, and pressed by reporters, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said a government panel examining the re-importation of prescription drugs would not meet its deadline to release a report on the issue today. Thompson said he could not explain the delay or say when a report would be available. HHS was ordered to explore the feasibility of drug re-importation by the Medicare act. The nine organizations in the pilot program, which is aimed at reducing Medicare costs and improving care for chronic conditions, are: Aetna Health Management; American Healthways; Cigna HealthCare; Health Dialog Services Corp.; Humana; LifeMasters Supported SelfCare; McKesson Health Solutions; a partnership of Visiting Nurse Service of New York and United Healthcare Services; and XLHealth. -- by Tony Fong and Mark Taylor