Friday, March 17, 2006

Medicare Part D: Bad Idea

You know, there are just sometimes you can see a bad idea before it hits the news. This was one of them:
Patients, pharmacists held 'prisoner' by Part D


March 17, 2006

Medicare Part D, the federal government's new prescription drug plan, has forever changed the way Roxanne Marek and her pharmacist, Bruce Scheinson, do business together.

For the past five years, Marek, of Medford, has gone to the drug store Scheinson co-owns, Centereach Pharmacy and Surgical, to get her prescriptions filled. She likes the accommodating atmosphere there and even calls the place "Cheers," after the friendly bar from the TV show. It's where she has picked up her 30 prescriptions for various ailments, including chronic back pain, lupus and depression.

That all changed on Jan. 1, when the government automatically enrolled her in a new, privately run drug plan. The new plan said she had to switch three of her drugs, won't cover two more and charged her a co-pay of $91.50 for another prescription. But the bigger problem for her are all the new co-pays. Although most are just $1 to $3 each, Marek lives on just $710 a month from Supplemental Security Income payments. Stretched thin by the drug costs, last month she passed on paying her electric bill and isn't sure she can afford the insurance for her car.

Scheinson has problems of his own under Medicare Part D, which was intended to give more seniors drug coverage. He said he has lost more than $50,000 since Jan. 1 because of lower reimbursements under Part D or from co-pays he waived initially because many of his patients, like Marek, couldn't afford them. And he spends far more hours then ever on the phone negotiating with the drug providers. One recent Monday morning, he was trying to help a disabled patient obtain a long-prescribed drug that was no longer covered by the man's new plan.

"This is not a discussion of health," he said as the clock showed he had been on hold 27 minutes. "This is just trying to get a prescription filled to put in his hand."
27 minutes. Time he could have counseled at least one more patient, a patient that could have benefited from his attention more than Musak, or filled countless prescriptions.

Does anyone remember the Bush administration's solution to homelessness and unemployment? Train the homeless in how to use the Internet in a public library to search for a job. This whole Medicare Part D reeks of that cynicism and vulgarianism. It's cheap, it's easy, it's government controlled under the guise of choice and worse, the government control doesn't institute enough oversight to ensure patients can have their medication continuously, or make it affordable for them!

There was a time, not too long ago, when senior citizens were the single largest element of the poverty class in America.

Then came Social Security. And then Medicare. And the elderly started to live longer and even live healthier, contributing to society in ways no one had dreamed of previously.

The Republicans seem determined to commit ageist genocide in America. They've allowed the rape of pension plans (Delta's pilots are finding that out now), cut Social Security, are dismantling Medicare, and why?

All because they're corporate buddies can't afford a good tee time at Black Rock, because they actually have to *work* on a weekday to make a little bit more money.

Sad. Very very sad. What's worse, the vast majority of Americans have no clue how bad things are, not just at the societal level, but at the personal level. If you don't have at least $100,000 in an IRA by the time you're 50, you're basically screwed. Even 401(k)s, we've seen, are no bulwark against profound poverty. Just ask any Enron reitiree. Or now, GM.

Video Podcast Here