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What's your opinion of the recently approved drug benefit program in Medicare? What effect is it likely to have on your business?

District Voices

Published January 1, 2004  |  January 2004 issue

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There's a significant number of gaps in the legislation, and those things need to be addressed before the law provides the comprehensive prescription drug benefits that many older adults are hoping for. The existing law falls short given the amount of money that the taxpayers will have to pay. ... Between now and [the law's enactment] hopefully there will be some changes. ... From a corporate point of view it's a good law because corporations, particularly the drug companies, benefit considerably. ... From a consumer point of view, it needs a lot of work.
Jonathan Mead, Director
UPCAP Services/Area Agency on Aging—Escanaba, Mich.

Most importantly this Medicare benefit provides roughly 47,000 poor and near poor in South Dakota the very economic and health care protections intended nearly 40 years ago at the advent of the Medicare system. Some of the challenges that face older adults have not changed with this bill, such as rising health care costs, a decreasing number of employers offering retiree health care benefits and fewer opportunities for employment for older workers. While only a first step, this benefit provides a foundation for bringing a 1960s vision of health care for older adults into the 21st century.
Sam Wilson, Associate State Director
AARP South Dakota—Sioux Falls, S.D.

There are several very positive provisions in the new Medicare law for rural Minnesota and Wisconsin. First of all, the reimbursement rates for rural hospitals are significantly increased, and that will help ensure quality hospital services in our rural areas. Health savings accounts are also authorized for farmers, and those savings accounts will help farmers pay for their health insurance.
William Oemichen, President and CEO
Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives/Minnesota Association
of Cooperatives—Madison, Wis.
(Currently advocating for the formation of drug purchasing co-ops)

I'll just say that this bill is a mixed bag for pharmacists and pharmacies. ... I believe that implementation of this bill over time is going to be more difficult than its passage was. Our unanswered questions can be dealt with during implementation of this bill, and we're looking forward to working with our congressional delegation, our national pharmacy associations and senior citizens who've been our lifelong patients and customers on the implementation of this bill.
Jim Smith, Executive Director
Montana Pharmacy Association—Helena, Mont.

Beginning in 2006, all dual eligible Medicaid and Medicare individuals will be able to participate in the new Part D Medicare Prescription Drug Program. It is unknown at this time what effect this will have on state Medicare programs because the details regarding financing and program administration have not been determined. In the interim, North Dakota will continue to provide drug coverage for eligible low-income residents who also have Medicare coverage.
David J. Zentner, Director of Medical Services
North Dakota Department of Human Services
Bismarck, N.D.

We have been struggling with our payment issues for many years and this bill addresses some of those issues; however, this is a short-term fix. We still have many long-term needs to be met. The reality is the payment mechanisms of Medicare will continue to need to be massaged.
Mary Edwards, Vice President of Public Policy
Fairview Health Services—Minneapolis, Minn.

Is there a topic you would like addressed in District Voices?
Send your request to letters@mpls.frb.org.

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