Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What (the other) Marsha said

There must be something about gal's named Marsha. I do like what they say. This time it's Marsha Hurst from a blog called The Health Advocate, talking about the frustrations of selecting a plan for Medicare Part D:

Yes, most of us who are in the health professions could probably do what Lisa Doggett did, but first, as my mother always told me, time is money. I was already appalled at how long it took to compare plans on the Medicare site: you can only do three at a time. What is that all about? And some plans have no donut hole, so you really have to look carefully to do the comparison because premiums are deceptive. And then, if you are not an MD with some prior knowledge of these drugs, the research it would take to take the next steps Doggett advises is daunting: check to see if there are OTC equivalents, find the formularies, make reasonable judgments about substitutions, contact the various doctors and get approval for these changes. No, it is frankly an outrage that this kind of research is required in order to make the best decision about a Medicare “benefit” plan. Certainly this is a new kind of elitism: the small group of older people who have younger relatives who are doctors willing to spend this kind of time (primary care probably) form the elite group who will be able to make the smartest shopping decisions. [emphasis added]

The whole article is worth a read, not merely because Ms. Hurst gives vent to the frustrations that many of us are feeling right now as we try to figure out those Part D formularies. Some folks that I know are making their own spreadsheets, very tediously, by making small searches on the Medicare database and trying to come up with the comparisons that will make it simpler for Texans with HIV to make plan decisions.

This evening, I did manage to find a source that purports to have all of the formularies in one place for easy downloading. Now all I have to do is buy a PDA to read it. [sigh] Without a computer or a PDA or a physician in the family, one does have to wonder how ordinary folks manage this. Oh right, the legacy version of spam--junk mail.

All snark aside, there really are some good things to be found in the Medicare Part D benefit, not the least of which is the advantage for people living at 150 percent or less of Federal Poverty Guidelines. But for the rest of the folks who are eligible for Medicare, the wrong decision can be costly.

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