Following a familiar pattern of blaming any unfavorable health care story on the recently passed health care law, the Senate Republican Communications Center has seized on an AP story about the consolidation of prescription drug plans to try and convince seniors that they won’t be able to keep the coverage they have. The AP article reports on “a new analysis by a leading private research firm estimates that more than 3 million beneficiaries will see their current drug plan eliminated as Medicare tries to winnow down duplicative and confusing coverage, in order to offer consumers more meaningful choices. Instead of 40 or more plans in each state, beneficiaries would pick from 30 or so.” Without missing a beat, the Senate GOP issues this release:
This really represents one of the most transparent and shameless attempts to scare seniors about health care in the post reform era. Consolidating Part D plans have nothing at all to do with Obama’s law and is actually a continuation of a Bush administration effort to ensure that seniors have meaningful choices of prescription coverage.
When Part D became law in 2003, lawmakers feared that seniors would not have enough prescription drug choices and established government back up plans that would go into effect in case private insurers failed to materialize. But private insurers did participate, offering some 1,400 plans nationally in the first several years and up to 1,800 plans in 2007. Insurers began offering a multitude of plans with an array of different co pays and deductibles in the hopes of attracting the largest possible market share. CMS officials in the Bush administration and senior advocacy groups like AARP, however, felt that seniors would become overwhelmed by the plethora of choice and began to set guidelines for how many plans a single issuer could offer. Several 100 plans, for instance, had fewer than 500 people enrolled in them and seniors themselves felt unable to compare all the choices adequately.
Beginning in 2005, CMS used its regulatory authority to narrow the number of plans a single sponsor could offer, eventually instituting a rule that any given sponsor could only offer three plans per region. The Obama administration has continued with this approach. In April, it published regulations saying that sponsors would have to demonstrate meaningful differences among plans and that plans with very low enrollments should be discouraged. The final list of plans to be offered for 2011 is still pending, but some don’t expect a great deal of coverage disruption. In fact, consolidation could proceed relatively smoothly, with insurers simply transferring policyholders to a different basic policy.
The larger point here is that all this has nothing at all to do with the health care law or Obama’s promise that you can keep the policy you have. The GOP press release relies on the party’s pre-reform tactics of literally lying to America’s senior citizens to discourage them from voting for Democrats.