Fewer Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Options Available For Low-Income Residents

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Low-income residents in all states but Wisconsin who are enrolled in Medicare prescription drug benefit plans will have fewer plans to choose from in 2009, according to an analysis released this week by Avalere Health, USA Today reports. According to the analysis, the number of free-standing plans eligible to serve low-income beneficiaries, who qualify for lower deductibles and monthly premiums or no premiums at all, will decrease from about 500 this year to 308 in 2009.

To qualify to serve low-income beneficiaries, insurers must keep their Part D premiums below a federal standard based on the average premium. According to USA Today, many insurers already have raised their premiums for 2009 to levels that make them ineligible to serve low-income beneficiaries.

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The number of low-income beneficiaries under Part D who will be forced to switch to new coverage will increase to 1.3 million, from 1.2 million this year and 250,000 in 2007, according to the report. Under the new changes, low-income residents in Nevada will have only one stand-alone drug plan, Arizona residents will have two and beneficiaries in Florida, Hawaii, Maine and New Hampshire will have a maximum of five plans from which to choose.

Humana in 2009 will not offer plans for low-income beneficiaries in the 43 states it currently serves. Cigna will provide plans for low-income beneficiaries in just 14 states next year, down from 29 states this year. However, UnitedHealth Group in 2009 will increase the number of states in which it offers plans for low-income beneficiaries to 42, up from 30 this year (Appleby, USA Today, 10/9).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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