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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Medical drug plans lost in bureaucracy

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A much-touted Medicare prescription drug benefit program gets under way Jan. 1, but just a fraction of the millions eligible have been approved thus far. The idea was to offer a new prescription drug plan that is more affordable, especially to lower-income Americans. It's believed that aan estimated 7 million senior citizens are eligible for the plan. But actually the feds sent the information to an estimated 19 million, just to be sure.

For starters, I find it somewhat amusing but interesting that the feds had to estimate the number of potential seniors who would qualify for the program. Guessing between 7 and 19 million, I assume, is good enough for government work.

But what I find more interesting is that less than a million seniors have opted into the program with just three weeks remaining before it begins. There's a simple explanation but I fear it's lost on the feds.

The program is a dazzling display of paperwork that would confuse an accountant. It offers more choices than a fast-food menu and too many seniors are simply lost in the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo. Leave it to the feds to design a program that is confusing for an MBA candidate much less a group of senior citizens.

The program itself sounds pretty good. On average, seniors will save almost $200 a month on the price of prescription drugs. But, of course, the real benefits are for the lower income seniors. Their income will qualify them for the maximum benefit. All in all, it sounds great on paper.

But that's the problem. Paperwork. Doesn't anyone in the federal bureaucracy speak simple English? Can't we devise a plan that is easily understood by virtually everyone? Apparently not.

The feds have sent out mailers and made millions of phone calls in an attempt to spread word of this major overhaul. But the takers are few and far between. That should tell you the program is just too complex for most to understand.

Everyone agrees the new program could be a substantial benefit to senior citizens. But those most in need are least likely to apply. We need to learn a lesson here. But, as always, I have my doubts.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen