Sunday, December 31, 2006

Medicare Part (D)isaster: Insurance Companies Cashing In

Insurance companies got millions of seniors to sign up for Medicare Part (D)isaster coverage last year by making it cheap. Now that they've got 'em, they're going to fleece 'em. Democrats must reform this terrible, terrible bill.

Boston Globe: Insurer hits millions of seniors with drug cost hike
Premium will rise by 130% for Mass. plan

The more than two million senior citizens nationwide who signed up last year for Humana Inc.'s least expensive Medicare prescription drug plan face average premium increases of 60 percent -- and in seven states, increases of 466 percent -- starting tomorrow . The higher prices will affect about 50,000 seniors in Massachusetts, where premiums are going up by 130 percent, from $7.32 to $16.90 a month.

Medicare added the prescription drug benefit in 2006, and in most states dozens of drug plans with varying coverage are available through insurance companies. Healthcare advocates say Humana kept its prices low in 2006 to gain market share. The strategy may prove lucrative, they say, because many seniors spent considerable time researching and selecting their drug insurance and were unlikely to switch plans for 2007, despite increased premiums.


Under Part D, seniors who go without drug coverage will pay higher prices if they eventually decide to buy it. As a result, many seniors who did not need prescription drugs in 2006 signed up with Humana's low-cost plan simply to avoid having to pay more if they needed coverage in the future.

"Some of them took the plan even though they were only taking aspirin,"
said Nancy Roper , a volunteer for Action for Boston Community Development who counsels low-income seniors on drug plan choices. "Now, this jumps to $16.90 for 2007, and they're calling and asking is it worth it. It's a hardship."

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