Medicare drug cards a raw deal for seniors
From the Daily Misleader
May/June 2004

Mark McClellan, the Administration's top Medicare official, claims that the new prescription drug cards being offered by the government will provide "significant price reductions off typical retail prices" for seniors 1. But a new study by the House Government Reform Committee reveals that McClellan's claim is not true - in fact, many seniors would pay more for drugs using the "discount" cards (which cost up to $30 a year) than they would paying retail 2.

The study found that a one month supply of the ten best selling name brand drugs cost more using Medicare drug cards offered by Pharmacy Care Alliance ($1,061), RxSavings ($1,046) or Walgreens ($990) than paying retail at ($959). In Canada the same drugs cost just $596 - 60% less than the lowest priced drug card - but the Administration continues to fight the efforts of seniors to obtain affordable prescription drugs there. 3

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson said that the competition among providers will cause "prices to continue to fall." 4 But the restrictions the Administration has placed on which cards seniors can use makes that unlikely. Once seniors select a card they are locked in until the end of 2004 and can change only once - in the fall, when enrollment for next year's program begins. 5 Meanwhile, corporations offering drug cards can change their prices once a week. Even if the prices for prescription drugs rise dramatically with the card a senior selects, that senior cannot switch cards before 2005.

1. "White House Promoting Medicare Drug Card", AP, 4/29/04.
2. "New Medicare Drug Cards Offer Few Discounts", Minority Staff of the House Committee on Government Reform, April 2004.
3. "FDA, States at Odds Over Drugs", Washington Post, 2/22/04.
4. "U.S. Offers Seniors Drug Cards Amid Criticism", Reuters, 5/3/04.
5. "Web Still Helps the Medicine Go Down", Washington Post, 4/30/04.

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