We received the following response to our Nov. 19-25 column, “Medicare Part D is a dog,” by Beatrice Lumpkin. This letter points out that the automatic enrollment in Part D of all Medicaid patients has some horrible consequences.
Dear Beatrice, I volunteer for an organization which helps the uninsured get their medications free through “patient assistance programs.” We have volunteers who are in both Medicaid and Medicare but do not qualify with Medicaid to get their medications covered. The only option that they have had is to apply to the patient assistance programs [offered by pharmaceutical companies] and receive their medications free. So now what are they supposed to do? The whole qualifying criteria for these free medications is the ability to prove that you cannot afford them, and cannot get assistance elsewhere. Now these individuals are being told that if they haven’t chosen a [Part D] plan by 12/31/05, then they will be automatically signed up and the costs will be taken out of their Social Security check.
There are so many red flags here that no wonder millions are confused and are afraid of making a choice.
First of all it tends to get a little scary when your Government is stating that: a) you have no choice, and b) even if you think you have a choice, then notice how your big cost of living raise, and your “before raise” benefits, are affected by the automatic deductions from your check. Also please advise those who are already receiving their medications free how their forced acceptance to this Part D program is going to benefit them more than the free medications they are getting now.
Most of the pharmaceutical companies are waiting until May 2006 to discontinue access to their programs for those on Medicare, but some such as AstraZeneca are terminating assistance to anyone on Medicare effective 12/31/05.
For one volunteer in our organization that means her Atacand (for high blood pressure) and Nexium (acid reflux) will not be available to her. She pretty much could deal with being without the Nexium (what is pain and nausea?) but the Atacand is an angiotensin II receptor blocker and not taking it may lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, etc. In the meantime these individuals will be penalized every month (permanently) and of course there goes your cost of living raise, and again probably more of your “before raise” benefits.
I have been involved in the patient assistance programs for over four years and I could foresee the mess Medicare Part D would entail. What is really scary is those who cannot afford the “deal of a lifetime” that Medicare is imposing upon them will not be able to get their medications; it’s as simple as that.
Unless someone is in this situation they have no idea that a monthly premium and a $3.00/$7.00 co-pay, etc., is really a hardship. This is really serious business for these individuals and it is no wonder that they are angry, scared and confused. Hopefully enough individuals will stand together and stop this forced involvement in a program that is not for the benefit of all of those on Medicare. If not, then again the poorest of the poor will pay for the politics involved in this extremely poorly planned program, “Medicare Part D” (D for dud).
Carrie Maloney, RN
P.S. If you go to our web site (www.freemedsandsolutions.com) you will notice that when an individual checks for their medications (when we have the information) we have posted that particular pharmaceutical company’s position regarding Medicare Part D.
Beatrice Lumpkin replies: Dear Carrie, I just learned another horrible consequence of Part D. Those on Medicaid who also have employer medical plans will lose the employer coverage when they are automatically enrolled in Part D. For example, a union steelworker retiree now in a nursing home paid for by Medicaid may have his or her spouse and other dependents covered by the employer plan. The choice is to lose the family medical coverage or to lose the Medicaid payment for the nursing home. Again, thanks for writing.