More than 90% of Medicare beneficiaries will have access to lower-premium stand-alone prescription drug plans in 2008, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced. According to the CMS, beneficiaries in every state will have access to at least one prescription drug plan with premiums of less than $20 per month, and a choice of at least five plans with premiums of less than $25 per month.
The actual average premium paid by beneficiaries for Part D coverage in 2008 is expected to be nearly 40% lower than originally projected when the benefit was established in 2003, the agency estimates.
Lower drug-plan premiums alone tell a consumer nothing, however, said Robert Hayes, president of the consumer-advocacy group Medicare Rights Center, in a written statement. Are fewer drugs covered? Are copayments higher? Are drugs for the sickest people, people needing chemotherapy, affordable under these plans? In his view, lower premiums in these private drug plans almost always translate into higher consumer costs and less coverage.
Consumers once again will have to review scores of complex plans if they will have any chance of making an informed choice on what plan works best for them, Hayes said.
The open-enrollment period for 2008 begins Nov. 15 and ends Dec. 31. Acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems noted that in 2008, the CMS would maintain the same exemption from the late enrollment penalty as in 2007 for low-income subsidy-eligible beneficiaries. -- by Jennifer Lubell
What do you think? Post a comment on this article and share your opinion with other readers. Submit your letter to Modern Healthcare Online at [email protected]. Please be sure to include your hometown and state, along with your organization and title.