NEWS OF: 8/28/2006

Government Eats the Donut While Seniors Get the Hole

Up to a third of Medicare recipients could be impacted by a prescription drug coverage gap, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The gap, approved by Congress in 2003, was designed to limit government costs. It works like this:

Recipients start off with a $250 deductible and a monthly premium of around $35. (That’s $670 per year.)

Once the $250 deductible is reached Medicare pays 75 percent of prescriptions up to $2,250.

At that point, recipients get zero coverage until they’ve reached $5,100 in total spending, creating the nicknamed ‘’doughnut hole'’ of poverty.

After reaching the $5,100 amount, the government resumes paying 95 percent of all drug costs for what is called catastrophic coverage. Beneficiaries would still owe a $2 co-payment for generic drugs and $5 for brand-name medications.

But the average Medicare beneficiary may find themselves getting caught in the donut hole for up to $500 per month.

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NEWS OF: 8/2/2006

Maine Jumps into the Deep End of the Drug Pool

Maine has just joined Iowa and Vermont in a prescription drug pool, the goal of which is to lower prices for Medicaid patients by combining Medicaid drug orders to drive down the prices paid to manufacturers.

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NEWS OF: 7/4/2006

Feds: The Check Is In the Mail

The federal government has begun repaying Maine for prescriptions provided to seniors and disabled people who could not get help during the transition to the new Medicare drug program. The first $5.5 million is in the mail.

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NEWS OF: 5/24/2006

HR 5455 – Veterans Identity Protection Act

Why would a Veterans Administration (VA) data analyst be allowed to take home a CD containing the personal data of 26.5 million veterans? And now that the CD’s been stolen, just how many people have to worry about being compromised. Mike Michaud is cosponsoring HR 5455 – the Veterans Identity Protection Act which could, perhaps, make a difference in the future.

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NEWS OF: 5/16/2006

Medicare D Penalties Die in the Senate

A bipartisan group of senators is pushing legislation to eliminate the financial penalty on people who sign up late for Medicare D. Bush administration officials, who are either in favor of the penalty or are using it as a “flag burning” issue to distract people from bigger issues, said it was premature to take a position on it.

Republican Senator Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Democratic Senator Max Baucus (Montana) initiated the bipartisan effort to waive the penalty which amounts to a permanent 7% increase on future premiums (about $2.50 a month.)

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NEWS OF: 5/15/2006

Medicare D-eadline

Medicare D’s sign-up deadline was today and plenty of seniors have not enrolled for this voluntary program. So what’s the downside? Well, it costs $32.50 month to be part of the plan. If you sign up late, you pay roughly 32 cents for each month you are late. If you are ten months late, the penalty would be $3.20 (32 cents x 10) per month for the rest of your life (an additional $38 per year on top of the regular fee, or around $400.)

Seniors shouldn’t be charged anything to be part of this program. Drug companies can’t possibly be losing money on this deal.

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NEWS OF: 5/10/2006

Bush Waives Leg Chains for Delinquent Seniors

The Bush administration is not changing the enrollment deadline for Medicare D, but waiving the penalty fees for very low-income seniors and people with disabilities who sign up late. How kind.

Is that compassion I’m sensing? No. Officials determined that collecting the fees from poor beneficiaries would cost more than the penalties themselves. Plus, they’d go straight to Hell for picking on the poor, the aged and the disabled.

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NEWS OF: 4/25/2006

Medicare D = Due Date

About four in 10 American seniors are unaware that (a.) the enrollment deadline for the new Medicare drug benefit is May 15, and (b.) there is a financial penalty if you delay.

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NEWS OF: 3/16/2006

Snowe: Giving Seniors More Time for Medicare D

Senator Snowe has offered an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget Resolution (along with Senator Bill Nelson) that would (a.) give seniors more time to sign up for the new Medicare D plan and (b.) provide more flexibility for beneficiaries to change plans. See Snowe

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NEWS OF: 3/15/2006

Rite Aid Sales on Puffs and Lithium

L.D. 1987 would require chain pharmacies to post their prices for the 20 most commonly prescribed drugs at their stores, report those prices to the state and see those prices posted on the state’s website.

It’s called comparison shopping. You know, it happens virtually everywhere else in the free world but pharmacies? Pharmacies are grumbling that they don’t have the time to post the prices, but that’s a load of Exlax. Especially when it’s 20 lousy drugs. See Morning Sentinel

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Snowe and Wyden Add Bargaining Muscle to Drug Negotiations

Senators Snowe and Wyden (D-Oregon) have introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget Act that would strengthen the drug coverage offered to seniors under the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit. The legislation would give the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the specific authority to negotiate lower prices for drug purchases through Medicare. Are you telling me the Secretary of HHS doesn’t already have this authority? See Snowe

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NEWS OF: 2/28/2006

Arab Port Security = Safe. Canadian Baby Aspirin = Death.

One minute you’re safely on the American side of the border and the next - you’re in Canada - and that ibuprofen in your hand might as well be black tar heroin. Your beer comes with a shot of tomato juice. People are speaking a language vaguely similar to French. And if you get sick? You’ll be whisked to a hospital where your bill may run as high as $40.
Americans ordering prescription drugs, mostly from Canadian drug companies, are not getting those drugs because they’re being seized at the border by U.S. Customs. Why? Because the Bush Administration believes in outsourcing their stuff (port security to Dubai) but not your stuff. Many pharmaceutical companies have paid off Republicans and border guards from Vancouver to Maine to ensure that Americans have to pay top dollar for their drugs, many of which cost infinitely less in Canada.

Americans are upset. Olympia Snowe and Tom Allen are upset. Allen said Congress has made it clear that Americans should be able to bring a 90-day supply of medications into the country for their own use and the seizures would violate that policy, adding, “Congress has done nothing to drive down the cost of prescription drugs for Americans. In many cases, it’s cheaper to do mail order. It’s cheaper to buy from Canada than it is to go through these Medicare prescription drug plans run by the insurance companies.

Snowe said Congress should allow imported drugs to be sold in American pharmacies. She said the drug industry is “the most protected” in the nation and competition would lower drug prices for all Americans.

Customs and Border officials deny an increase in seizures, but they are as credible as a generic pregnancy test strip. A California senior citizen advocacy group said their survey indicates seizures doubled in December and doubled again in January.

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NEWS OF: 2/14/2006

Governor Seeks Waiver to Cover Maine’s Dual Eligibles

The Governor is requesting an extension and waiver from the Federal Government on the federal Medicare Part D program until March 8, 2006, while the status of the 15,000 dual eligibles is resolved. Currently the state is picking up the cost and the extension is needed to make sure the state is reimbursed. See the Gov.

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NEWS OF: 1/20/2006

Collins: Reimburse ME for Medicare D

Senator Collins says she’s received assurances that Maine will be reimbursed for the four million bucks it has spent to cover the cost of prescriptions for seniors struggling through the Medicare Part-D snafu. See WLBZ

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