“If you like your health care plan you can keep it.” This was a mantra from President Obama throughout the health care debate. The President also promised that his health care overhaul would not affect seniors’ benefits.
But, despite all the promises, a new report from Avalere Health shows that, in addition to the upheaval caused by Obamacare, the Medicare bureaucracy is taking administrative steps to change the Medicare drug program that will have adverse impact on seniors’ choices. Millions of seniors will have to switch their prescription drug plans due to changes within Medicare. Avalere is a private research firm founded by a former budget official from the Clinton Administration.
Its analysis shows that more than 3 million seniors—roughly 20 percent of those enrolled in stand-alone drug plans—won’t be able to keep their current plan. According to the AP’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, some of seniors’ drug plans will be eliminated as “Medicare tries to winnow down duplicative and confusing coverage, in order to offer consumers more meaningful choices.”
But what ‘more meaningful choice’ really means is fewer choices. And for many seniors who like their current prescription drug coverage, it will mean making a new choice altogether, whether they want to or not.
According to Bonnie Washington, one of Avalere’s senior analysts, “those who have to change plans could experience some disruption and inconvenience.”
Medicare officials tried to pooh-pooh the study. Said Deputy Administrator Jonathan Blum: “Anybody who is producing that kind of analysis is simply guessing.” However, Avalere claims that it used Medicare’s own specifications to produce its findings.
The extent to which the change will disrupt seniors’ drug benefits will depend on Medicare’s strategy for implementing the transition. But what is crystal clear is that a transition will be necessary. If Medicare eliminates coverage options, seniors will inevitably have to change their drug plans—not withstanding presidential promises to the contrary.
This post was co-authored by Margot Crouch.