Medicare Drug Plan Gets Mixed Reviews as Deadline Arrives

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As the Monday midnight sign-up deadline nears, both critics and supporters of the U.S. government’s roll-out of the Medicare Part D drug subsidy program say the latest numbers tell the tale.

“Right now, 37 million people with Medicare have prescription drug coverage,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator Dr. Mark McClellan told reporters last week as the deadline approached.

And with an estimated 43 million Americans eligible for Part D, McClellan was right in affirming that government outreach over the past few months has helped recruit nearly 90 percent of new enrollees to the plan.

But he also went on to mention that the 37 million figure “includes about 9 million individual enrollees in stand-alone prescription drug plans.”

Critics of the Part D roll-out say that figure — which represents people who weren’t already covered by existing plans — is the best number to focus on.

“The bundled number of 37 million isn’t useful to us,” said Judith Stein, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy Inc., in Washington, D.C.

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