Department of Uh-Oh (another continuing series)

The Medicare drug prescription benefit is in trouble:

Crucial information, like the monthly premiums and the names of covered drugs, will not be available until mid-September.  After hearing federal officials praise the program for about 45 minutes, Joan M. Jenness, 72, of Bridgton, Me., said: "I heard nothing I had not heard before. I still have lots of questions."

Everyone enrolled in Medicare is eligible for prescription drug coverage. But public opinion polls suggest that many people have not heard about the new benefit or do not understand it, and many have not decided whether to sign up for it.

The economics of the new program depend on the assumption that large numbers of relatively healthy people will enroll and pay premiums, to help defray the costs of those with high drug expenses. Insurers say the new program cannot survive if the only people who sign up are heavy users of prescription drugs.

Here is the full story.  I am willing to buy the notion that prescription drugs do people more good than most other forms of medical care.  So a Medicare program, for a given level of expenditures, should not penalize drug expenditures.  But the benefit plan we are getting is surely one of the most ill-conceived pieces of legislation in modern times.


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