JSPAN holds town meetings on "Fixing Medicare D"

On Thursday, October 26, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network held two town hall meetings on the problems with the Medicare Part D program and ways to fix the system. Tom Sneddon, the Director of PACE and PACENET since 1984, and Bruce Sigman, former president of the PA Pharmacists Association, were on hand for the events. The evening program, featuring Sneddon & Sigman, also had members from the Medicare advisory group Apprise on hand. Mr. Sneddon told the audience that Medicare Part D brought about a system that is dysfunctional. Currently, there is a large prescription drug coverage gap where seniors must pay 100% of the cost. Brian Gralnick, JSPAN Board member and moderator for the events, commented that this 'doughtnut hole' is "is so big Homer Simpson can't eat it." Pennsylvania is one of only a few states with a service like PACE, a totally income based service that provides drug benefits to seniors who do not qualify for Medicaid. The complaints with the Medicare Part D system are threefold:
  1. confusion on which plan to take;
  2. seniors not knowing there was a deductible;
  3. the prescription drug coverage gap, known as the "doughnut hole."
Mr. Sneddon urged the audience to advocate for a Medicare with first dollar coverage, nominal co-pays and open formulas. While many think funding for a more comprehensive program would be a problem, Mr. Sneddon assuaged these concerns. He argued that the government could require sizable rebates from drug manufacturers; whereas currently the government is forbidden from trying to acquire rebates. Bruce Sigman brought his son's shofar for its purpose as a call to warning. He noted that many employers have eliminated their health insurance plans since Medicare Part D was enacted. Furthermore, during the first hundred days of Medicare Part D, confusion abounded due to dual eligibility complications. Mr. Sigman recommended a few ways to save money despite the failure of Part D:
  • Get generics. Many of these medications today are identical to the brand names.
  • Consult with your doctor.
  • Keep using the Medicare discount card after hitting the "doughnut hole."
Mr. Sigman pointed to a fix currently before Congress, House Bill 1671, which would allow pharmacies to negotiate with Pharmacy Benefit Management companies. He also recommended contacting elected representatives on the state and federal levels with regular phone calls (in the case of state officials, drop by their local offices). JSPAN would like to thank Mr. Sneddon, Mr. Sigman, and the members of Apprise for their commitment to closing the doughnut hole and providing comprehensive drug coverage to seniors.