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"How long do you have to get hit in the head before you start asking who's hitting you in the head?"

Thursday, January 19, 2006

More on Medicare

I’ve read through scores of official press releases and speeches concerning the new Medicare prescription drug benefit; all those I’ve seen so far read as gung-ho sales pitches containing plenty of sunny generalities and optimistic projections but little real information. To date, I’ve seen nothing to explain how things like this keep happening:

“…nearly two dozen states across the country have decided to cover the prescriptions of low-income beneficiaries as a public health emergency. Many people were being refused critical medications or were being charged as much as 80 times their usual co-payment.”

I wonder if some of these people have already had their food and housing assistance reduced, or if they even knew such a thing were possible. I didn’t know it was possible until I found these statements on medicare.gov*:

“If you apply and qualify for extra help paying for the new Medicare prescription drug coverage, you may see your food stamp benefits go down as you spend less on drugs. Using the new Medicare drug coverage means you will have more cash to spend on food that you used to spend on prescription drugs. The value of the extra help paying Medicare prescription drug costs will more than make up for any loss in food stamps. If you get the $10 minimum food stamp benefit, then your benefits may end.
. . .

If you apply and qualify for extra help paying for the new Medicare prescription drug coverage, you will not lose your housing assistance. However, your housing assistance may be reduced as you spend less on drugs. Using the new Medicare drug coverage means you will have more cash to spend on rent that you used to spend on prescription drugs. The value of the extra help paying Medicare prescription drug costs will more than make up for the lower housing assistance.”

Now, it could be argued that this information is available online and can be found with a little time and effort. While that is certainly true, those impacted by these changes are low-income individuals, and I’m not sure how many poor people have ready access to the “Internets.” In light of recent news reports such as the one excerpted above, these aspects of the Medicare drug benefit are potentially life-threatening, yet I’ve NEVER heard them televised. Have you?

*I’m not providing a direct link to this information because I want you to find it yourselves (preferably while imagining you’re old, sick, and poor).

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