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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The FEMA-ization of Medicare

George Bush is doing for Medicare what he did for disaster management.

When Congress created the Part D prescription benefit in 2003 everyone correctly assumed the time lag was so that the Republicans could take credit for a "victory" on a Democratic issue before the presidential election. It was also widely assumed that the delay would hide the fact that Part D would be run by private insurers and the federal government would be barred from negotiating discounts from the pharma companies, discounts that would reduce the cost of the benefit.

It was also assumed, incorrectly, that the extra time would allow the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to work out the rules for a crazy program that has a significant deductible and a "doughnut hole" in coverage that impacts millions of seniors.

The first two weeks of the prescription drug benefit is quickly reminding people of what happened the last time Congress tried to add a benefit for seniors. The outcome may or not be the same: the catastrophic health benefit was repealed.

But the total chaos, despite two years of planning, is another glaring example of the total dysfunction that is the calling card of the Bush administration Even when it wants to help, it messes up. Katrina was the most glaring example but it seems that even with that "experience" under its belt, FEMA still can't handle things. The latest debacle: delays in assistance to Oklahoma wildfire victims.

One of the lines of demarcation for true conservatives is that government has a public safety role, so FEMA's foul-ups violate those standards, But since many true conservatives object to Part D as a wasteful government intrusion into private lives, one must wonder whether there was anything here other than a cheap election year trick. We'll find out soon enough in this election year.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need to fix this issue .. once and for all

January 16, 2006 4:04 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Madden said...

I am an adult mental health case manager in PA. Currently out of a case load of 15 people living with extreme mental illness FOUR have been totally denied coverage that were supposed to be automatically enrolled in the plan Medicare chose for them.

Before 01/01/06 they had no co-pay for their NUMEROUS medications. Just last week one of my clients spent over $200 for a TWO WEEK supply of her meds. This is a woman who lives on a disability check that’s under $700.

One of my clients is in the hospital because she couldn't afford her medication, and how else was she supposed to get it? I drove her there myself!!!

Last week our Governor stepped in and directed the state Medicaid program to pick up the tab until all of this gets sorted out. We (case managers) were instructed that the pharmacist could enroll our consumers in an emergency prescription coverage program....however, out of the three pharmacies I went to, none heard of the program.

Try to get these insurance companies on the phone??? Yeah right, I have been trying for three weeks...can't get through! Phone messages, ignored. E-mails, ignored.

Luckily it is my job to advocate for these men and women who can not do so themselves. But I shudder when I think about the people who don't have anyone to help them and don't have the capacity to understand that their right to medication and treatment has been completely kicked to the curb!

January 16, 2006 8:36 PM  

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