A guide to changes in Medicare that the government is mailing to 42 million homes contains an important pricing error, the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday. The guide mistakenly suggests that people have access to a number of programs at no additional cost, while in fact some of those programs (60% of those listed) require additional payments. This will further confuse Medicare recipients and increase taxpayer costs. The pricing struture of the new prescription drug plan was written by Congress, so naturally it’s confusing. From the article:
Nationally, about 14 million Medicare members are expected to qualify for Extra Help. To be eligible, a single person has to earn less than $14,355 a year and a married couple less than $19,245. Applicants’ assets must also be limited.
Extra Help participants will pay minimal costs per prescription ($2 for generics and $5 for brand-name drugs, typically) and no premiums if they choose a standard Medicare drug plan. Also, there will be no gaps in coverage, as there are for other participants in the drug plan.
The process of applying for Extra Help has already proved confusing. Although the drug plans operate under Medicare, people seeking financial assistance have to apply to the Social Security Administration. Millions of Social Security applications were sent out this summer, but many older people tossed them in the trash because they didn’t know what they were for, said Thanh Lu, a Medicare outreach coordinator for the Progress Center for Independent Living in Forest Park.
As if healthcare pricing wasn’t complicated enough…