Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Delivering his long-awaited report on the reform of the UK pensions system, Lord Turner said the UK faced a choice: pensioners will get poorer, "or we should expect a relentlessly means tested system; or public expenditure on pensions must rise as a percentage of national income; or the state pension age must rise".
450-page report, which has been three years in the writing, recommends
the introduction of a universal basic state pension with entitlement
based on residency, rather than national insurance contributions, which
would provide a platform for workers to build other savings
Read the rest of this article in The Guardian. Or go whole hog and read the entire 450 pages.
The UK's Independent ran a story today summarizing pension-related stats from around the globe--get a whole country's worth of information in a single paragraph. Examples:
UNITED STATES. Retirement age is now 65.5 and gradually increasing. It will become 67 for people born after 1960. The US government's Social Security pension system faces long-term financial problems as retirees from the population boom after World War II use social security benefits and fewer workers contribute the current plan.
RUSSIA. Current retirement age is 60 for men, 55 for women. Many retirees work beyond that to supplement their pensions, which average the equivalent of about US$80 a month. Some want the age raised but others say with Russia's high mortality rates it doesn't make sense.
ITALY: The state pension system has helped make Italy one of the world's most indebted nations. At 15 percent of gross domestic product, pension spending is among the highest in Europe. In 2008, the retirement age changes from 57 to 60 for women, and 65 for men.
FRANCE: The retirement age is 65 for the private sector, but varies in the public sector, depending on the profession. France has €900 billion (US$1.06 trillion) in pension liabilities to fund in addition to its record levels of public debt. As soon as 2010, France may no longer have enough workers to fund pensions for its swelling ranks of retirees.
JAPAN: Japan's retirement age is low, with most companies setting the mandatory age at 60, but the rapid aging of society is forcing changes. From 2005 to 2015, the number of Japanese aged 60 or older will increase by about 7.25 million, while those between the ages of 15 and 29 will decrease by about 3.81 million. This would mean one in three will be over 60 by 2015. Last year, the government required companies to gradually raise the retirement age by 2013.
GREECE: The European Union has warned Greece that within five years it will face a problem due to increased aging of its population. With one of the lowest birthrates in the EU, its population of 10 million is rapidly aging. Experts say Greece must begin dealing with the problem before 2010, when costs for pension are expected to skyrocket. Under the current system, the basic retirement age for men is 65 and for women it is 60.
ZFacts has an interesting comparison of our past and current presidents' contributions to the total national debt, which now stands at over $8 TRILLION! The budget reconciliation bill, now in suspension as Congress takes a break from all its hard work, makes significant cuts to programs serving the poor and middle class, would add considerably to the current deficit (and, by extension, to the debt) due to tax cuts for the wealthy.
Take a look.
Medicare officials late Tuesday said a
glitch in the government's website that seniors use to compare
prescription-drug policies is artificially inflating some annual cost
estimates. The trouble was spotted after Sen. Richard Durbin,
D-Ill., and the media questioned the Centers for Medicare &
Medicaid Services (CMS) about why some plans' annual cost estimates
have changed since the website went live in mid-November.
Spokesman Gary Karr says CMS updates the website weekly with new
information from the plans, which are allowed to adjust drug prices and
the amounts Medicare members will pay for those drugs. But, he
says, it also discovered that a computer data problem was artificially
inflating drug prices for a plan called Medicare RX Rewards Premier,
offered by Unicare. That plan was used as an example by Durbin in a
letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Tuesday,
questioning why the Unicare cost estimate rose by more than $1,250
since mid-November. The letter also mentioned a Humana plan whose price
decreased by $70. CMS is working to fix the problem, Karr says,
adding that it knows of a similar problem with one other plan but could
not rule out that there may be others. Karr says Medicare expects
that drug prices will change, perhaps quarterly, adding: “In general,
we have not seen much price fluctuation at all, and some price drops.” Ed.: As I've noted previously, my own opinion is to avoid the CMS tool, which is consistently producing problematic results for many if not most seniors seeking information about whether to enroll in Part D. Instead, contact your state Senior Health Insurance Counseling organization, or other state/local advocacy organizations, to get the help you need.
Medicare officials late Tuesday said a glitch in the government's website that seniors use to compare prescription-drug policies is artificially inflating some annual cost estimates.
The trouble was spotted after Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and the media questioned the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) about why some plans' annual cost estimates have changed since the website went live in mid-November.
Spokesman Gary Karr says CMS updates the website weekly with new information from the plans, which are allowed to adjust drug prices and the amounts Medicare members will pay for those drugs.
But, he says, it also discovered that a computer data problem was artificially inflating drug prices for a plan called Medicare RX Rewards Premier, offered by Unicare. That plan was used as an example by Durbin in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Tuesday, questioning why the Unicare cost estimate rose by more than $1,250 since mid-November. The letter also mentioned a Humana plan whose price decreased by $70.
CMS is working to fix the problem, Karr says, adding that it knows of a similar problem with one other plan but could not rule out that there may be others.
Karr says Medicare expects that drug prices will change, perhaps quarterly, adding: “In general, we have not seen much price fluctuation at all, and some price drops.”
Ed.: As I've noted previously, my own opinion is to avoid the CMS tool, which is consistently producing problematic results for many if not most seniors seeking information about whether to enroll in Part D. Instead, contact your state Senior Health Insurance Counseling organization, or other state/local advocacy organizations, to get the help you need.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
A war of words over the future of two
homes for the aged in Thunder Bay took place at city hall Monday night
but it looks like the city will stop operating them. City councillors voted 7-4 in favor of handing over two D-listed
homes for the aged to the province. The issue sparked a number of town
hall meetings and hours of debate. Council heard deputation after deputation, all of them supporters of
keeping Dawson Court and Grandview Lodge in the public's hands. A resolution has been put forward by administration to discontinue
operation of 300 long-term care beds by January 1, 2009 but
administration will continue to work with the provincial government to
develop a plan that would see additional beds be operated by a
not-for-profit corporation. It has been two years since Peter Vander Kam's wife moved into a
private 'for profit' nursing home. Vander Kam says initially they were
impressed with the facility, but staffing shortages have put a big dent
in quality of care at the home. Mayor Lynn Peterson says this is one of
the worst decisions the city has had to make. Monday night, members of the TBayTel board have been given a raise.
Council voted in favor of giving board members a $250 per diem for each
day spent on TBayTel business other than their monthly board meetings.
The decision did not come without debate.The re-numeration will be
retroactive to June 1, 2005.
A war of words over the future of two homes for the aged in Thunder Bay took place at city hall Monday night but it looks like the city will stop operating them.
City councillors voted 7-4 in favor of handing over two D-listed homes for the aged to the province. The issue sparked a number of town hall meetings and hours of debate.
Council heard deputation after deputation, all of them supporters of keeping Dawson Court and Grandview Lodge in the public's hands.
A resolution has been put forward by administration to discontinue operation of 300 long-term care beds by January 1, 2009 but administration will continue to work with the provincial government to develop a plan that would see additional beds be operated by a not-for-profit corporation.
It has been two years since Peter Vander Kam's wife moved into a private 'for profit' nursing home. Vander Kam says initially they were impressed with the facility, but staffing shortages have put a big dent in quality of care at the home. Mayor Lynn Peterson says this is one of the worst decisions the city has had to make.
Monday night, members of the TBayTel board have been given a raise. Council voted in favor of giving board members a $250 per diem for each day spent on TBayTel business other than their monthly board meetings. The decision did not come without debate.The re-numeration will be retroactive to June 1, 2005.
Regional Policy and Long Term Care Program
Barbara Cavalletti and Marcello Montefiori
Università degli Studi di Genova - DISEFIN - Sezione di Finanza Pubblica and University of Genoa - Department of Public Economics (DISEFIN)
Date Posted: November 2, 2005
Last Revised: November 6, 2005
Working Paper Series
Is it too Late for Title VI Enforcement?: Seeking Redemption of the Unequal Long Term Care System in the United States Through International Means
Institute for Health Law
Date Posted: November 18, 2005
Last Revised: November 18, 2005
Working Paper Series
Dangerous Times for Medicaid
Seton Hall School of Law
Date Posted: November 14, 2005
Last Revised: November 15, 2005
Working Paper Series
Continuing my series of links to state specific resources on Medicare Part D enrollment:
CMS's link to State Health Insurance Counseling and Assistance Programs:
Colorado: Division of Insurance
Colorado Gerontological Society/Medicare Part D Information
Nebraska: Nebraska Medicare Prescription Drug Coalition--a service of the NDHHS
Nebraska Area Agencies on Aging
Remember: the CMS plan finder tool doesn't work properly for many seniors--I tried it (hypothetically, of course) and the plan it suggested for me didn't even cover my drugs! I would have to pay separately for them, without reimbursement, and my out-of-pocket costs for those drugs wouldn't count towards the Part D out-of-pocket requirement!!! How can this be a finding tool???
Representatives of financial service companies Monday urged fast action on legislation to shore up traditional pensions, saying Congress had to act "sooner rather than later" if something is to pass this year.
The Financial Services Roundtable, which includes major banks, insurance and investment companies that manage pension plan assets, wrote to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, urging the legislation be dealt with as soon as House members return to Washington from recess next week.
"The time to act is sooner, rather than later, to ensure there is enough time to conference with the Senate before adjourning next month," Steve Bartlett, the president of the group, wrote to Hastert.
"Pension reforms, like investment advice and automatic enrollment, will strengthen the ability of Americans to save and invest for retirement," Bartlett said.
The Senate earlier this month approved legislation aimed at reducing underfunding in "defined benefit" pension plans, which have a fixed payout at retirement. But the legislation has yet to be brought to the floor in the House, and both chambers have a large backlog of work to finish this year.
The House version also encourages employers that offer a different kind of retirement vehicle, known as the 401(k) plan, to automatically enroll workers. And it makes it easier for employers to offer investment advice with 401(k) plans.
The government and ruling coalition will propose the introduction of a separate public health insurance system for senior citizens aged 75 or older in fiscal 2008, government officials said Monday.
The proposal will be incorporated in an outline of plans to reform the country's health insurance regime, expected to be compiled Wednesday, the officials said. Government ministers and party leaders met Monday morning to draft the outline.
The draft proposal for the new health insurance system for senior citizens stipulates that all municipal governments at city, town and village levels will form a prefecturewide scheme and collect insurance premiums. Each prefectural government and the Tokyo metropolitan government will be responsible for the upkeep of their relevant prefecture-based systems.
As of Monday, the draft outline--the first of its kind since fiscal 2002--had two parallel draft plans on the share of medical expenses to be covered by patients, which currently stands at 10 percent for people aged 70 or older and 30 percent for people aged up to 69.
One of the draft plans calls on people aged up to 64 to pay 30 percent of their medical fees, those aged 65 to 74 to bear 20 percent and those aged 75 or older to pay 10 percent. This billing method, worked out by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, has already been approved by the ruling parties.
According to a second plan, people up to age 69 will be required to pay 30 percent of the medical expenses to clinics and hospitals, while people aged 70 or older will have to bear 20 percent on their own.
Both plans have an exception clause obliging senior citizens who earn the same level of income as those of working age to pay 30 percent instead of the present 20 percent.
The inclusion of the two plans appears to be nothing more than a one-off political consideration for the Finance Ministry, which has demanded further cuts in the government's fiscal burden concerning medical expenses, coalition sources said.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Thousands of elderly people, mostly women, are being accused of witchcraft and then murdered or maimed by vigilante groups in Tanzania. But the police and government do little to prevent the deaths.
They came for Lemi Ndaki in the night. "I was sleeping when I heard a noise," explains the 70-year-old Tanzanian grandmother. "There was no security in my hut and the door was easy to open. I got up to see about the noise and someone grabbed me and chopped off my arm with a machete. I think he came to chop my neck but I raised my hand and he only took my arm." A neighbour heard her cries and took her to the hospital in Mwanza, the nearest city, a three-hour drive away on the shore of Lake Victoria. "They couldn't put my arm back on and the scar still hurts, especially when I'm cold." That is not surprising: the open bone still pokes out from the skin below her elbow, 19 years later.
Other elderly women in her village, Mwamagigisi, haven't been so lucky. Ng'wana Budodi was shot in the head with an arrow. Kabula Lubambe and Helena Mabula were knifed to death. Ng'wana Ng'ombe was also murdered with a machete, and when her mud hut was set alight, her husband, Sami, was burnt alive. This is the fate awaiting thousands of old people, mostly women, who are accused of witchcraft in this rural and isolated corner of east Africa. The killings are escalating in many areas, perhaps numbering more than 1,000 a year, but the Tanzanian government and police do nothing to stop them.
Talking to your older parents about their finances is as hard for you as it was for them to talk to you about sex. Both conversations, however, are absolute must-haves. But this month you have an edge. The new Medicare drug plan has opened for enrollment and that gives you just the opening you need to have a conversation about finances and the future with your folks. Here's a look at the ground you want to be sure to cover:
- Make sure they're on stable financial ground.
Your parents, thankfully, will likely live a lot longer than their
parents before them. It would be nice (for all involved) if whatever
assets they've stockpiled for retirement (supplemented by Social
Security) could last as long as they do.
But in order to make that happen you need to understand — or to bring in a trusted financial adviser who understands — how your parents are living today. Do they have a substantial pension? Are they draining their savings? Or are they subsisting on Social Security? In other words, do they have enough?
- Help make their money last. Although the financial industry (and financial writers like me) have a lot of emphasis on accumulating assets, we haven't talked enough about withdrawing money from retirement accounts in a way to make it last. If your folks aren't sure how much they can safely withdraw each year, four percent of total assets is usually a good starting point.
Older residents at a Dominion Housing Group sheltered accommodation scheme are learning how to use computers for the very first time in their lives.
Enthusiastic residents at the Orwell Close scheme in Hayes, Hillingdon, have been getting to grips with surfing the web, sending emails, playing games and typing on the PC in their communal lounge, with the support of a volunteer IT trainer.
Scheme Manger, Ann Hallett, said: “There was an unused PC in the communal lounge just gathering dust. I really wanted to encourage the residents to use the computer for internet access, emails, writing letters or just to play games.
"Initially, many of them thought they were too old to learn but decided to give it a try.”
Orwell Close resident, 82-year-old Donald Dennis, pictured, said: “Our IT trainer is terrific. He’s helped me set up a hotmail email account and got me into using the internet. It has been very interesting.”
Orwell Close is one of Dominion’s three sheltered housing schemes, which supports active elderly people. The schemes are a positive housing choice for older people, providing good quality housing, independence, security and 24-hour care and support.
Bush administration officials say they have received scores of complaints about the aggressive tactics used by some insurance companies and agents to market Medicare's new prescription drug benefit.
The officials said they would take disciplinary action if they found that the tactics had broken federal rules.
Possible violations reported to Medicare officials in the past few weeks include uninvited door-to-door solicitation of business and misrepresentation of insurance products.
Federal and state officials said they had also received complaints that some insurance agents identified themselves as working for the Social Security Administration or the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
In addition, they said, some insurance agents have asked beneficiaries for personal information like Social Security numbers and credit card or bank account numbers.
"These steps are illegal, totally inappropriate and unacceptable," said Patricia P. Smith, who works with health plans as director of the Medicare Advantage Group at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Advocates, including the Center for Medicare Advocacy and our colleagues, have received a steady stream of communications from beneficiaries regarding problems with the www.medicare.gov Personal Plan Finder, the Formulary Finder, 1-800 Medicare, and the 2006 Medicare & You Handbook. Beneficiaries should be aware of the issues outlined below when trying to select a Part D plan.
Problems with the Web Tool
* At times, entering multiple drugs at once produces a result that says no plan covering all of the drugs is available in the area, even when this is not the case. Entering each drug separately may, in fact, produce results showing that all of the drugs are covered, even though entering them simultaneously does not. Information has also been generated by the Plan Finder showing that a drug is not covered, though the hard copy of the plan’s formulary shows that the drug is covered.
* We have learned that some plans are not covering all of the drugs in the classes of drugs that should have all, or substantially all, drugs in six categories: anticancer, anticonvulsant, antidepressant, antipsychotic, immunosuppressant, and HIV/AIDS. However, drugs that are not supposed to be covered - barbiturates, benzodiazepines, weight loss/gain - are covered in some plans that have supplemental benefits for higher premiums.
* Plans’ utilization management tools are not explained in the Plan Finder. While it may say that prior authorization and step therapy are required, there is no explanation as to what these terms mean. There is also no reference to the Transition Process – the ability to obtain medications during the time a drug is taken off the formulary.
* The “Important Notes” section for particular plans is not consistent from plan to plan. One national plan may state it is national and another national plan may not indicate it is a national plan. Also, some plans indicate that a beneficiary will pay more for an out-of-network pharmacy while other plans do not mention this at all.
Problems with Results
* Co-payment amounts are inconsistently reported. It would be easier to use the Plan Finder if all plans structured the information in the same manner, particularly by listing it in tiers. Instead, some use confusing descriptions by listing, for instance, that there are injectable and non-injectable versions of the drug, but without indicating the tiers on which they appear.
* The printing options once you have entered a zip code do not work correctly. The only way to print more than one page at a time is to ignore the “printable version” and print directly from the screen after selecting “view all” at the bottom.
* If you enter information about a beneficiary that is on Medicaid, the results will give you plans that are over the benchmark premium.
* The tool does not warn you if one of the pharmacies you entered is not in the network or has higher costs.
Problems with the Formulary Finder
* The Plan Finder used to list several plans that could be accessed by clicking on the particular plan name. Now, clicking on a plan sends you to the Formulary Finder and several plans come up, even after you have selected information about one particular plan.
* In some instances, the Formulary Finder states that no plans in the entire state cover a particular drug when we know that this is not the case.
* When using the Formulary Finder, one receives results for both PDPs and MA-PDs. Many people will not know the difference, and could find themselves looking at the wrong type of plan and selecting a plan that will require them to get all of their heath coverage from a Medicare Advantage plan when they never meant to select that type of plan.
* Users have found that the Formulary Finder automatically changes brand name medications to the generic equivalents, even when the option to search for a lower priced generic drug is unselected.
* When a drug is found, the Formulary Finder indicates which tier the drug is on, but it does not give the cost-sharing amounts for that tier. It also does not indicate whether the cost sharing exceeds the cost of the drug.
* Humana’s 1-800 number on the Plan Finder and in their printed materials is wrong. The correct phone number is 1-800-851-1768.
* There is no information about long term care pharmacies on the web. We have heard from a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) in Ohio that a 1-800 Medicare operator did not know what a long term care pharmacy was.
* We have heard from several SHIPs that 1-800 Medicare customer service representatives are telling people to call SHIPs, even for the most basic information which the customer service representatives should have been able to provide.
* During a test call to 1-800 Medicare, the customer service representative gave out erroneous information. The hypothetical beneficiary was told that her information would all change because she was “dual-enrolled”, because she had Medicare A and B, and would therefore have little or no premium, no deductible, and lower costs per drug: “probably around $1 or $5 per prescription.” The operator said that she could not enter the caller’s Medicare number or parts A and B status because she was not sure the computer would get that specific, but she seemed certain that having parts A and B would make most, if not all, of both the premium and deductible go away. The customer service representative was terribly confused. She appears to have known something about low income subsidies, but only enough to confuse the issue. Having both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B does not qualify an individual for a low income subsidy, which is “extra help” for premiums, deductibles and co-payments. The full low-income subsidy is, however, automatically available to Medicare Beneficiaries who are truly dual eligible; that is, those who have Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B and full Medicaid (Title 19) coverage. This call, which resulted in only dangerously inaccurate information, took 31 minutes.
* Customer service representatives are also redirecting calls to the local SHIPs regarding dual eligibles who have called because they have not yet received their autoassignment letter. Dual eligibles who want their autoassignment letters in Spanish are also told to call the local SHIP.
* Customer service representatives have been unable to identify which plans are below the benchmark premium.
* At a CMS Long Term Care Conference in early November, Charlotte Yeh of Boston Regional (CMS) explained that the penalty would be based on 1% of the cost of the monthly premium for the plan in which the individual had enrolled. We know that the 1% penalty is based on the national average for 2006 - $32.20.
* It has been much publicized that the 2006 Medicare & You Handbook has mistakes in it. In the handbook, the list of plans indicates that all of the plans with premiums below the benchmark for the region will be fully covered by the low income subsidy. In fact, the low income subsidy will only fully pay for standard plans that are under the benchmark premium. The subsidy will not fully cover enhanced plans, even if they are below the benchmark premium. Moreover, some beneficiaries eligible for the subsidy will only have part of their premium subsidized. The Handbook makes no mention of partial subsidies.
* Another mistake on page 58 of the handbook states that Medicare Savings Program (MSP) recipients can only change plans once until December 31, 2006. In fact, MSPs can change plans every month, just like dual eligibles.
Beneficiaries and advocates are urged to keep in mind that Medicare Part D is still a work in progress. Information sources, and even the information itself, will change daily. Double and triple check all facts when making any decisions about Part D plans.
Editor: CMS and the Bush administration are, quite frankly, a disgrace in how they are responding to the Medicare Part D problems developing for our nation's elderly. Let's not forget HHS head Michael Leavitt's comment "a lot of things in life are complicated"--pretty unhelpful, if you ask me. Seniors who've been advocating for a prescription drug benefit deserve better than this. My advice: Contact your state representative or senator and demand accountability!
Here's the TOC for the next issue of The Elder Law Journal (published at the University of Illinois)
Top Ten Myths of Social Security Reform
Jeffrey R. Brown, Kevin A. Hasset & Kent Smetters
Disparate Impact or Negative Impact?: The Future of Non-Intentional Discrimination Claims Brought by the Elderly
Sandra F. Sperino
Dignity on Autonomy? The Failure to Question the Ethics of Tagging and
Tracking Dimentia Patients with GPS Technology
The Resurrection of the Death Tax: Decoupling and the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001
Kevin M. Bohl
Elder Electors Go Postal: Ensuring Absentee Ballot Integrity for Older Voters
Jessica A. Fay
Say What? How the Patient Self-Determination Act Leaves the Elderly with Limited English Proficiency Out in the Cold
Catherine J. Jones
Inability of World War II Atomic Veterans to Obtain Disability
Benefits: Time is Running Out on Our Chance to Fix the System
Melinda F. Podgor
The over-the-counter painkiller acetaminophen may help elderly adults with dementia become more active and socially engaged, the results of a small study suggest.
Researchers found that when they gave acetaminophen to nursing home patients who had moderate to severe dementia, the medication helped changed some of the patients' behaviors. They tended, for example, to spend less time in their rooms and more time watching television, listening to music, reading or performing "work-like" activities.
The findings suggest that unrecognized, untreated pain in dementia patients keeps them from being as active as they can be, according to the study authors, led by Dr. John T. Chibnall of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri.
"Pain treatment in this group may facilitate engagement with the environment," they report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Chronic pain is a common problem for elderly adults, stemming from conditions such as arthritis, bone fractures and nerve damage from diabetes. But Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia can get in the way of diagnosing and treating chronic pain. Patients may, for instance, be unable to express what they are feeling.
What's more, untreated pain may exacerbate problems associated with dementia, such as inactivity, agitation and depression.
To see if a mild painkiller could change dementia patients' behavior, Chibnall and his colleagues studied the effects of 4 weeks of treatment with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Twenty-five nursing home residents with moderate to severe dementia spent 4 weeks taking three daily doses of acetaminophen and another 4 weeks taking inactive pills.
Overall, the study found that patients spent less time by themselves and more time being socially active when using acetaminophen. They also spent more time talking to themselves or an "imaginary other," which, according to the researchers, is also a manifestation of heightened engagement.
On the other hand, although certain behaviors showed positive changes, agitation and emotional well-being did not improve.
Still, Chibnall and his colleagues conclude, the findings suggest that treating pain with mild medications can help improve dementia patients' social interactions.
"With further research and more aggressive treatment of pain," they write, "nursing home residents with dementia may be helped to lead more interactive lives."
McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, maker of Tylenol, supplied the medication used in the study.
That bright "star" in the eastern night sky right now is not a star at all, but Mars, which won't pass as close to Earth as it is now until 2018 . You'll need a small telescope to see its dust storms and the famous Mars "canals". Get info from Sky and Telescope.
A congressional report says drug prices through the new Medicare benefit are higher than those negotiated for veterans, in Canada and high-volume drugstores.
A Medicare official challenged the House Government Reform Committee report, requested by ranking Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., as misleading and flawed, the Washington Post reported.
The report concludes 10 popular drugs through 10 well-known Medicare Part D insurance plans were an average 80 percent higher than prices negotiated for the Department of Veterans affairs, 60 percent more than in Canada and 3 percent higher than Costco or Drugstore.com.
The plan increases costs and "makes it doubtful that the complicated design of Medicare Part D provides any tangible benefit to anyone but drug manufacturers and insurers," the report concludes.
Medicare's Gary Karr called the report "selective and misleading."
"Now the effort should really be about educating people and not continuing the same old rhetoric that they have been saying for two years," Karr told the newspaper.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005