Friday, October 20, 2006

The Flaming Hoop - Because Retirement Shouldn't Be Easy

Medicare Part D. The Prescription Drug Plan for our senior citizens. It sounds wonderful and should have been, but in the hands of Republicans it has turned into a nightmare for many who can ill afford complications in their lives.

In today's Washington Post there's a piece reporting that over half a million low income seniors who were automatically enrolled last year will have to apply this year for the new plan.
Some advocates say the affected seniors may not have understood a letter about the change that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent last month. And even beneficiaries aware of the change might have trouble completing the six-page application, they said.
A six-page application is a bit much for anyone. I've seen shorter college applications and job applications. So, of the people covered by Medicare Part D, the most vulnerable group has yet another hurdle before actually receiving the benefits they're entitled to during the second year of the plan.

If having to cough up thousands of dollars to satisfy a mid-year copay is termed the doughnut hole, then facing the loss of free coverage at the end of the year if a six-page application isn't completed on time is like making seniors jump through a flaming hoop to get their coverage.

These seniors will not be dumped from the plan, but would revert to a plan that requires a monthly premium. The problem there is that these are truly the most financially and medically vulnerable who are covered by this particular plan, so the likelihood they can afford a monthly premium is very low.
Medicare drug plan beneficiaries qualify for special help if their annual incomes are at or below 150 percent of the poverty level, which is $14,700 for individuals and $19,800 for married couples. Also, individuals must have no more than $11,500 in assets, and married couples no more than $23,000 in assets.
So, what would you do if you found yourself faced with a monthly premium that you couldn't afford but the alternative was going without the prescription drugs you also can't afford?


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