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Part D enrollment will fall short

A June 2005 CMS Office of the Actuary report estimated there would be a total of 36.8 million enrolled in Part D in fiscal year 2006. Thus HHS Sec. Leavitt’s stated goal of 28-30 million enrolled in Part D by the end of 2006 either reflects an updated guesstimate or indicates the previous goal is now viewed as unreachable, or perhaps both. (remember almost 22 million seniors were automatically enrolled in Part D on 1/1/06) Especially when one recalls that the calendar year has three more months than the fiscal one.
As Bob Laszewski points out, historically the big enrollment date for employee benefits and health plans has been January 1. With all the hype, publicity, politicians-on-the-road-show circuit and marketing leading up to that date, and with that date well behind us, it looks very doubtful that enrollment numbers will even come close.
The well-publicized enrollment mess surely has not encouraged seniors to jump into a plan that had already confused them.
So, despite the taxpayer funding 75% of the costs of the program, millions of dollars in advertising and strong support from elected leaders (sell, some of them at least) and six weeks into the program, we have enrolled a grand total of less than 4 million into the voluntary program.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of a privatized health care plan based on competition in the private sector.
What does this mean for you?
Bad news for advocates of national health insurance provided by private payers. That was me too, but I’m not nearly as convinced today as I was this time last year…

3 thoughts on “Part D enrollment will fall short”

  1. You think? Doesn’t it seem reasonable that you could do managed competition in a coherent and competent manner?
    The government would have to make sure it was more geared to ease of use and giving the consumer what they want instead of what the insurers and drug companies want, and the consumer would probably have to sacrifice some in the way of choice in benefits, etc.. It just seems like using Bush’s “Unmanaged Competition” is a bad test case for real Managed Competition I’d like to see.

  2. One other thing, Joe. I seem to recall hearing that only 25-28 percent of Medicare beneficiaries lacked drug coverage before this all started. About 30 percent already received drug coverage from an employer, current or former, another large swath of beneficiaries had enough money to buy into a supplemental plan with drug coverage, the Parts H, I, and J plans. And another segement of eligible beneficiaries received medication through assistance programs.
    When all is said and done on Part D, the real measure of success will be how much better off we are than the 72 to 75 percent of Medicare eligibles who had drug coverage in 2004.

  3. Rick – I think the number of Medicare eligibles who had drug coverage before Part D is significanlty less than 25%; remember 21.6 million had coverage out of 45 million +/- eligibles.
    As to your second point, I’d suggest the question is cost/benefit. that’s a tough equation

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates




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