Latest on New Medicare: Feds Acknowledge Problems

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In his weekly radio address to the nation, President Bush acknowledged that there were problems present with trying to implement the new Medicare prescription-drug benefits. He said that the government is trying to fix these problems, but that the program remains a “good deal” for seniors.

 Ever since Medicare was revamped back on January 1st, many Americans have experienced problems wading through the details and actually receiving the prescription drugs they need — which is a big deal, considering these drugs are often needed to treat chronic health problems.

 Indeed, hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled people have had difficulties with the new program. During the growing pains, several states agreed to pay for medications after their citizens were assigned to an improper plan (that didn’t cover the kind of drugs they needed) or didn’t get themselves properly enrolled.

 Switching to Medicare has been a daunting experience for many people, especially those caught up in trying to figure out which details apply to them. Elderly people in particular have been confused over the vast amount of private insurers available. Others have had to deal with bureaucratic issues when trying to switch from a state plan to the federal Bush-led Medicare.

 Still, Bush said the program has worked well for many people. The problems, or “challenges,” have been with information not being transferred smoothly between Medicare, drug plans, and the states.

 That translated to problems in the pharmacy with people unable to get the medications they need. And going in to refill a critical prescription for diabetes, hypertension, or hyperthyroidism and walking out empty-handed can make a person considerably anxious. Not to mention putting him or her at a risk, health-wise.

 The massive Medicare program is slated to cost about $678 million over the next decade, but that number is sure to swell, as most government estimates do. For it to run successfully, it needs a smooth blend of private insurers, pharmacies, and health-care companies to work together. Overall, there are about 42 million Americans relying on the plan.

 And, of course, the problems have sparked political bickering (as expected). Democrats are quick to point out that private insurers and pharmacies have too much influence on the government plan. Senator Hillary Clinton said that the best way to fix these problems is to scrap the plan entirely, which the Republicans will surely not do.

 In any event, while Bush says they are “making good progress,” rest assured that if you have run into some early problems with the Medicare plan, you are not alone. With a little time, hopefully these wrinkles will be ironed out.

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