January 27, 2006
Three weeks into the Medicare Part D drug benefit and federal officials are still scrambling to fix the problems.
The new Medicare plan went into effect on January 1, 2006, but people are still having problems getting their prescription drugs. Sally Mank, a Jefferson Areas Board of Aging volunteer, has spent the past few weeks counseling seniors and answering phone calls.
"In the first week after the plan started I had several calls from people and they were out of insulin and they couldn't get their insulin so that's to me probably one of the most life threatening [situations]," said Mank.
The problem is that until now, Medicare never covered prescription plans. Seniors who were on Medicaid drug plans and have now switched to Medicare are finding themselves out of luck when they try to pick up their prescriptions. Either their drugs are not covered by the new plan or they have to pay enormous co-pays.
"People just get the feeling that this wasn't though out well, they didn't plan for the switch," said Harriet Noble, who is on Medicare.
Even though it's very difficult to sign up, the Government recommends seniors enroll soon. Medicare members who don't already have better drug coverage from somewhere else and fail to enroll by May 15, 2006, will face tough penalties. The CEO of JABA said until then they will continue to help pharmacists and seniors fight this uphill battle.
"It's a team effort. It's how JABA is working with the pharmacists and trying to make the best out of a system that really wasn't planned for very well," said Gordon Walker.
The government hopes to have these issues straightened out in the next few months.