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Plan D Confusion
The state Legislature is trying to pick up the pieces of the bungled Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.
No matter how hard it tries or how innovative its ideas, the biggest hurdle remains the same. To fix the problems created by the new federal program will cost money. Lots of money. And, every year, it will get more expensive.
Since the launch of Part D in January, Maine has spent between $200,000 and $500,000 a day to cover problems within the program and to ensure that seniors get the medicine they need.
State Sen. Michael Brennan has proposed legislation that would guarantee continued access for seniors to necessary medications. Essentially, the bill would formalize the stopgap measure implemented by Gov. Baldacci when it became clear the transition to Medicare Part D would leave many senior citizens without access to the drugs they need.
The second bill, sponsored by Rep. Hannah Pingree, would restore prescription drug coverage for seniors and people with disabilities who saw their benefits reduced by Part D. Many Mainers who received their drug coverage through MaineCare or the Drugs for the Elderly program have seen their co-payments increase and their coverage reduced.
While the hope is that the costs of Brennan's bill would eventually decline as the kinks in Part D are worked out, Pingree's legislation could cost $20 million in the first year alone. It would likely increase every year as more people become eligible and drug costs continue to grow.
Something definitely needs to be done, and eventually it may fall to the states to fix this problem. Ideally, the fix should originate in the same place as the problem: Washington.
U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have introduced legislation that would improve Part D, but it's difficult to predict its chances for passage.
Maine reacted swiftly when it became clear that the Medicare prescription drug plan would not work as advertised and protected many of its most vulnerable population from the worst fallout. Now lawmakers are left to decide whether the state can afford the high price of fixing the Part D's shortcomings over the long-term.
For further information, contact:
Rep. Hannah Pingree, 691-5071
Amy Watson, Legislative Aide, 287-1430
Kaylene Waindle, Communication Director, 287-1433
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