‘Hopelessly Complicated’ Benefit Plan Signup to Begin
By George Anderson
William Beard, a retired chemist with a Ph.D., told The New York Times, “it’s too complicated to suit me.”
Pauline Olney, a retired nurse, said, “The whole thing is hopelessly complicated.”
What Mr. Beard and Ms. Olney were talking about are the details of the federal government’s new Medicare D drug benefit program. The new plan will begin enrolling seniors tomorrow and will be available to beneficiaries on January 1.
The Bush administration has said that the program will help seniors covered by Medicare to cut their prescription medicine expenses by at least 50 percent, with lower-income consumers achieving far greater savings.
In a radio address on Saturday, Mr. Bush said, “This new benefit is the greatest advance in health care for seniors and Americans with disabilities since the creation of Medicare 40 years ago.”
Most appear willing to test the accuracy of Mr. Bush’s statement, but many say the complexity of the program makes its very difficult to determine which is the right drug plan to join.
Participants in most states have dozens of plans to choose from. They differ on drugs covered, premiums, deductibles and co-pays.
Retailers and others are holding Plan D workshops to help consumers cut through the complexity. Many pharmacists have participated in in-house as well accredited continuing education seminars approved by the Boards of Pharmacy.
Bernie Slome, vice president of business development for the mystery shopping and research firm ICC/Decision Services [a RetailWire sponsor], said that the complexity of the
program led his company to create an auditing program to help clients determine just how well pharmacists understand Plan D and are communicating that information to seniors interested
“This is a unique opportunity for drug store chains to enhance their customer service and, ultimately, their sales,” he said. “Many people are unclear as to the particulars of the new rule; who better than the trusted pharmacist to explain the rules, thus giving comfort and assistance to the consumer who is asking.”
“If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” he said.
Moderator’s Comment: Are pharmacies ready to counsel seniors on Plan D? Will the way pharmacies handle this have an impact on where consumers shop for
prescription medicines in the future? What retailers have impressed you with their communication efforts related to Plan D? –
George Anderson – Moderator
- Confusion Is Rife About Drug Plan as Sign-Up Nears – The New York Times
- President’s Radio Address – The White House
- How do you ensure that you are properly prepared for the new Medicare Part D program? – ICC/Decision Services