If you are a member of an organization whose mission is to protect elders, ask your Board of Directors to evaluate the benefits of fragmenting elder power before they embrace the outreach grant. If you are an elder looking for an objective opinion pertaining to the best course of action for you, make sure you ask whoever is giving you information if the agency they represent is also funded by a Pharmaceutical Company or if the agency they work for also sells insurance and other health care products
This month, Medicare recipients will be able to enroll in the so well-advertised Prescription Drug Discount Card program. To make sure every single Medicare recipient enrolls in one of the twenty six (26) approved prescription discount programs, the Center of Medicare and Medicaid is awarding millions of dollars to organizations serving elders. The millions of dollars are earmarked to inform, promote and enroll elders in one of the 26 Discount drug card programs. I said to promote the new version of the Medicare program because the organizations receiving the funding will not be including in their information to the consumer how the purchasing of prescription drugs from Canada can truly save them money, or how the fragmentation of elder consumer power into several discount cards can take away forever the power elders have at present.
The fact that options to be presented to elders are limited to those approved by the administration exclude valuable alternatives elders can use to buy medication and by default gives elder consumers the impression that the new version of the Medicare program has no negative impact to present and future retirees.
It is my belief the new outreach “grants” are again an excellent strategy to diminish the consumer power of elders as a single block and to detract the attention of organizations whose mission is to defend elders and make those organizations execute the same plan they previously opposed. The “outreach plan” is flawless and deserves recognition because with one single stroke and with one single investment it neutralizes two important groups that need to be neutralized if we want to diminish the power of elders.
Think of the following if you are an organization that questions the merits of the Medicare Modernization Act. What better way to silence you or to distract your attention than to give you money to implement the enrollment of million of elders in the program you originally questioned. This is brilliant. If you accept the funding that comes with the promotion of the program by default you are no longer a free agent to criticize what you are now promoting. It is my belief that organizations jumping to obtain funding to enroll elders in Prescription Drug Discount card programs are doing that prematurely and are doing that to the detriment of elders.
To those organizations that are obtaining financial compensation to promote the program I suggest they follow the advice of a legendary Florida politician, Senator Dempsey Baron, who said, “you have to be able to take the money and still say “no”. Now is the time to carefully study the impact the fragmentation of elder power is going to have on the ability of elders to secure quality of life in their old age. Now is not the time to promote something that has not been carefully analyzed, now is the time to compare medication pricing in this country with medication pricing in Canada, Mexico and the rest of the free world. Now is the time to study the potential consequences the fragmentation of 41 million Medicare recipients would have on their consumer power to negotiate a better drug price at this time and for generations to come.
The positive result of negotiating as a block of consumers, 41 million strong, can be seen in the price advantages veterans have with their medication. This price advantage is there because the Veterans Administration negotiates as a block with pharmaceutical companies, and as such is able to obtain a better price for all participants. Why not comparing the drug prices among the pre approved 26 Discount Card and the “block” negotiation for Veterans and for Canadian citizens.
For some of you that are not familiar with the new Medicare Act, one of the sections of the Act most heavily criticized is the one that literally prevents the Secretary of Health and Human services to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies on behalf of 41 million participants for lower prescription drug prices. Forty one (41) million Medicare recipients is a powerful block that, if maintained as a block, could eventually bring back to Congress the entire Medicare Act to be reexamined. This could be very detrimental to the administration and can raise important political issues in the upcoming election. But if the 41 million recipients are broken down into 26 pieces with the help of the aging service providers, the pieces will take away the power of the many.
To my surprise the best advice given to elders is coming not from aging providers but from a financial magazine Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, June 2004 edition which, in an excellent article, tells the elders to wait and not to give up prematurely what they already have. There is no need to rush to sign up for a program. The Medicare program as we know is going to be there until 2006 and unless you choose to move out of the program, no one can do it for you. Senator Bill Nelson’s Medicare update also mention that the discount care might not be for everyone.
Consider the following: If the agency or organization providing the information is also selling HMO products and services or receiving huge grants from Pharmaceutical companies and government agencies, the advice you are receiving could be biased in favor of the organization and not to your best interest. Elders should ask that organizations receiving money from Pharmaceutical companies or selling HMO products and services should read a disclaimer before they “inform” the caller of the discount program. The disclaimer should say: Our organization has a special interest in promoting the new Medicare program because we have business arrangements with companies that provide those products and services or we receive funding from a Pharmaceutical company that offers discounted prescription drug cards.
If I am confused about the language of the Medicare Act and the options available to me the best thing I can do is to seek an objective opinion from an entity that would not benefit from any or all the programs covered under the Act. Getting advice from organizations that also sell health insurance, receive monies from Pharmaceutical companies, or is part of a HMO network is not the way to go. How much of an objective interpretation would I give you if I have a profit driven agenda?
If you are a member of an organization whose mission is to protect elders, ask your Board of Directors to evaluate the benefits of fragmenting elder power before they embrace the outreach grant. If you are an elder looking for an objective opinion pertaining to the best course of action for you, make sure you ask whoever is giving you information if the agency they represent is also funded by a Pharmaceutical Company or if the agency they work for also sells insurance and other health care products. If they say yes, say thanks and hang up. Avoid being trapped in the master plan. Stop the fragmentation of Elder Power and keep the Medicare program you have. If enough elders do that, 41 million recipients can revert and realign the process and stop the train from leaving the station.
Dr. Gema Hernández