Medicare Reform on the Ground: An Update on the Medicare Drug Program

Hayes, Robert M.
March 2005
Generations;Spring2005, Vol. 29 Issue 1, p94
Academic Journal
The article informs that preparing for January 1, 2006, the launch date for the Part-D Medicare prescription drug benefit, the most controversial aspect of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, is like standing on top of a mountain watching two trains speed straight at one another. The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 created two avenues for people with Medicare to use in the interim prior to the beginning of the outpatient drug benefit: Medicare-approved drug discount cards that promised up to 25 percent savings off an array of prescription drugs; and a transitional assistance program that gives Medicare beneficiaries with low incomes up to a $1,200 credit on the card over two years toward the cost of their drugs. Experience with these new programs, as well as with other, long-existing low-income assistance programs, offers sobering and convincing evidence that many, probably most, of the people in need will not receive any help. Figures for the discount card program are not final, but those that are known are alarming. Of the 35 million people eligible for a card, just six million, fewer than 20 percent, actually enrolled in the program.


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