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December 05, 2004

New Medicare Law a Killer?

It's complicated, inadequate and an attempt to begin the privatization of Medicare. But will the new Medicare bill also be a killer of the elderly?

The problem is that the confusing system of private plans may confuse not just elderly consumers but may confuse the pharmacists who are supposed to prescribe the drugs:

Pharmacists express dismay at the prospect that nursing home patients will be in different drug plans covering different medicines.

"If nursing homes have to deal with multiple formularies from multiple prescription drug plans, that will result in chaos and an increased potential for medication errors," said Thomas R. Clark, policy director for the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, whose 7,000 members specialize in drug care for the elderly.

Here's the sad part. Most of the low-income folks in nursing homes already have a prescription drug plan. It's called Medicaid. But when the new law goes into effect, they have to leave Medicaid and join the privatized Medicare prescription drug plan:
Two-thirds of nursing residents are on Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people. Under the new law, Medicaid coverage of prescription drugs ends on Jan. 1, 2006, when Medicare drug benefits become available.
So here's a clear example of the costs of privatization. The present system largely works-- yep, under big, bad "government-run health care" known as Medicaid -- and it's privatized replacement is seen by pharmacists as potentially a killer, due to the confusion and chaos it may induce.

Posted by Nathan at December 5, 2004 11:56 AM