August 26, 2003

August 26, 2003 | WebMemo on Health Care

Medicare Malady #31: Who Are The Drug Bills Supposed To Help Again?

"Near-poor" retirees-too "wealthy" to qualify for public assistance but unable to afford comprehensive private health insurance-are among those least likely to have prescription drug coverage. But they won't get much help from the prescription drug proposals pending before Congress.

A recent analysis from the Commonwealth Fund finds that a retired couple living on $20,944 a year in 2006 would still spend a substantial part of their income on prescription drugs under the House and Senate proposals now being reconciled by a Capitol Hill committee.

How much is "substantial"? Under the House proposal, that couple would pay $2,437 or 11.6 percent of their income for drugs. Under the Senate bill, the couple would spend $3,208 or 15.3 percent of their income, according to Commonwealth, a New York-based private foundation that specializes in health and social issues.

The Heritage Foundation reached similar conclusions in a study on Medicare patients with private drug coverage. It found the Senate bill would force average Medicare patients to pay about $621 more than what they would pay under their existing drug coverage, according to a July 15 research paper by Heritage health-care expert Lanhee Chen.

So tell us again. Who are the drug bills supposed to help?

For more information or to receive an e-mail version of "Medicare Maladies," contact medicaremaladies@heritage.org or call Heritage Media Services at (202) 675-1761.

("Medicare Maladies" is a regular feature, launched 7/14/03, from The Heritage Foundation. Sad to say, there's another malady coming your way tomorrow. Daily "maladies" are also available on
heritage.org.)

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