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Medicare drug plan is turning into a nightmare for seniors

Letters to the Editor
Published November 6, 2005

Like Many Americans, my wife and I have been eagerly awaiting the new Medicare Part D benefit. Millions of sick and elderly people need help paying for prescriptions. The government is trying to do the right thing.

However, the news lately has been quite disturbing. With the projected cost of the program escalating upward from its original $350-billion to more than $700-billion over the next few years, and recent disasters (especially Katrina), some congressmen are recommending cutting back or delaying the start of Medicare Part D.

The problem is obvious! Turn on your TV any afternoon, and you'll see one insurance company after another running ads for Medicare Part D enrollment, featuring a parade of celebrities. These ads cost a lot of money. I just saw Carol Burnett yank her ear in one. (I wonder how much she charges for that?) Insurance agents across America will get tons of commissions for these sales.

How about the thousands of "help line" counselors that were hired to help confused people select a plan? (I bet they cost something.) Most ads admit the plan is confusing, and it sure is! Hundreds of plans, each with two or three options, premiums and formularies. What a nightmare for the seniors!

How about the cost of the brochures, pamphlets, forms, applications, phone lines and postage? I'm sure I left out something. Oh yes! Profits made by the insurance companies.

There was no same reason to allow all these insurance companies to get involved at all. If doctors can send claims to Part B Medicare, I'm sure pharmacies could send prescription claims directly to D. Had this program been set up property (minus the insurance companies), maybe the sick would gave gotten better coverage. Maybe the D in medicare would stand for drug coverage, instead of disgrace!

-- Joseph Rosen, St. Petersburg

Still struggling to understand

I got a real chuckle about your "Harry & Louise" cartoon by Signe Wilkinson in Friday's paper. Unfortunately, it's truer than fiction. Our mail has been inundated with pamphlets, brochures, booklets, etc., but we still don't understand the Medicare Prescription Part D program. I've logged onto the Medicare Web site, listed my medications, and still don't know which, if any, of them are listed in the formulary, because not one piece of information has included a formulary. Can't the government ever come up with a plan that the general public can understand?

Right now it looks as though it will cost me more than I have been paying with pharmacy discount cards, which will be discontinued as soon as the government program is implemented. As far as I can tell, this plan is more of a boon for the insurance companies than for the people. If I am wrong, blame it on the information I have received so far. And if we don't enroll by May 15, 2006, there will be a penalty imposed. It's probably going to take that long to understand the program!

-- Shirley Smaldone, Palm Harbor

Admirable information

Re: Seniority, Oct. 30.

I would like to commend your Seniority section editor, Sheila Reed, and her staff for their comprehensive coverage of the new Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans.

During this time of unprecedented change to our Medicare system, confusion abounds for many seniors who are confronted with the complexities of the new Part D Plans and the decisions they must make. In my opinion, you have provided an invaluable service to the seniors in our community by addressing the various aspects of the plans, along with presenting options in a concise and accurate manner. The Medicare Part D Chart is especially helpful for comparison.

I would like to reiterate the importance of Medicare recipients taking the time to investigate which plan will best cover their current prescription needs. Just because a trusted friend or neighbor states a particular plan is "the best," that may not be the case for you. From my viewpoint as a Certified Senior Adviser, I applaud your efforts in Medicare Part D education, which is the key for seniors to make an informed decision.

-- Ellen Colabella, Clearwater

It's not the usual mess

Your front-page headline last Sunday, Second-term blues get Bush, and its subhead, "Air of scandal, loss of clout: Bush's hard time is hardly unusual. It's the presidential re-election curse," should put to rest the oft-repeated myth that you are biased against the Bush administration.

When government appointments are made on the basis of cronyism rather than competence, it can take a crisis to expose the damage. When fiscal policy is utterly irresponsible and out of control, it can take years for the long-term costs to come due. When a cabal of high government officials distort and ignore any facts that don't support their lust for war, and are even willing to lie to feed the war frenzy, the flush of victory can hide the lack of a reasonable postwar plan. But eventually, even the most skilled media manipulators can no longer prevent at least some of the truth from coming out.

My opinion is that, in these and a multitude of other ways, the corruption, failures and moral bankruptcy of the Bush administration have gone far beyond anything we have seen in our lifetimes, and maybe even in our nation's history. You are entitled to a different opinion, even one as ridiculous as your opinion that this situation is "hardly unusual." But your opinions belong on the editorial page, not in your front-page headline.

-- Gregory A. Morgan, Lutz

A tough requirement

Re: Miers aside, Bush may turn to short list, Oct. 30.

So Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, thinks that the current Supreme Court justices show "a lack of grounding in reality and common sense." If that is a requirement for a justice, why isn't it a requirement for him, his fellow senators, congressmen, the president and government appointees?

-- Ray Smith, Tampa

Root out the corruption

Re: Information Age finds newspapers unready, by Eric Deggans, Oct. 30.

I am one of those seven-days-a-week newspaper readers, even though most of the news is somewhat outdated compared to online reports. If newspapers want to bring back their readers, I would like to suggest a remedy: A strong commitment to hard-hitting investigative reporting on the local, state and national level.

I will say, however, that the St. Petersburg Times is a leader in this area in that regard, but there is so much corruption in our country, and it's affecting everyone. That type of reporting can bring real change and better the lives of all of us.

-- David Bourke, Hudson

A presumption of innocence?

As per U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley concerning Scooter Libby: "He is entitled to the benefit of the presumption of innocence."

In the context of WMDs, would we have invaded Iraq if Saddam Hussein was afforded the same benefit?

-- Daniel P. Quinn, St. Petersburg

[Last modified November 5, 2005, 01:10:04]

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