Low-Income Medicare Drug Plan Beneficiaries' Coverage Could Change

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Low-Income Medicare Drug Plan

About two million low-income beneficiaries enrolled in Medicareprescription drug plans could be moved to new plans in 2008, andmillions of other beneficiaries will have to change plans if they wantto avoid double-digit premium increases, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports. CMSlast week sent letters to about a quarter of the lowest-income Medicaredrug plan beneficiaries, who currently pay no premiums, informing themthat that their coverage will change. Those beneficiaries must beenrolled in plans that meet the agency's requirements for coveringlow-income people.

The beneficiaries could retain theircurrent coverage, but they would have to start paying premiums, CMSAdministrator Kerry Weems said. Weems added that as the benefitcontinues there likely will be changes made to help reduce the numberof people having to switch plans every year.

Most of the beneficiaries who will be required to switch coverage currently are enrolled in plans administered by United Healthcare and Humana, according to consulting firm Avalere Health. SilverScript and Medco likely will provide coverage for most of the beneficiaries who will be reassigned, according to the AP/Chronicle.

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Advocacygroups said all Medicare Part D beneficiaries should review theircoverage, even if they are satisfied with their current plan, becausemany drug plans are changing and some plans are increasing premiums.The premiums for plan with the largest number of beneficiaries, AARPMedicare RX Preferred Plan, will increase by 16% in 2008, whileHumana's standard plan will increase by 71% and the AARP Medicare RXSave Plan will increase by 65%, according to Avalere. The averagemonthly premium in 2008 will be $28. The open enrollment season for2008 Part D plans beings on Nov. 15 and ends on Dec. 31 (Freking, AP/Houston Chronicle, 11/3).

First-Person Account

Choosing a Medicare plan "wasn't quick or easy, and the more I studiedthe options, the more concerned I became that making a mistake couldhave serious consequences," journalist Charles Ornstein writes in a Los Angeles Timesfirst-person account about choosing a Medicare plan for his mother whoturned 65 this year. Ornstein continues, "It can take days to pick aplan that seems like the best fit," and the "number of options andtheir costs vary by region," adding, "In short order, I was drowning inchoices."

In addition, for Medigap plans, Medicare's Web site"doesn't tell you how much each insurer charges," and some stateregulators do not keep tabs either, so "you have to call each companyindividually," he writes. "In the end, we selected a plan for Mom thather friends had and her doctors liked -- much the same way as how mostactive workers pick their health plans" (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 11/4).

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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.

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