Press Release             

Contact: Akiko Takano
Deputy Director of Communications

Robert M. Hayes

September 25, 2008

Statement by Robert M. Hayes, President of the Medicare Rights Center, on the choice of prescription drug and Medicare health plans for 2009

New York, NY - Once again, all across the country, people with Medicare will face for 2009 a bewildering choice of nearly 50 prescription drug plans and over 40 Medicare health plans, including HMOs, PPOs, and private fee-for-service plans of every variety. It is a Wild West marketplace and older Americans are ripe for exploitation.

Bait-and-switch tactics are in full play. In 2009, the average one-year premium increase for over 60 percent of people with Medicare - those enrolled in the ten largest drug plans - will exceed 30 percent. Two of the nation's largest plans, both sponsored by Humana, are increasing premiums by over 60 percent over 2008. Humana's standard drug plan, the second largest in the country, is increasing its premium by 330 percent since it launched its "low-premium" plan in 2006.

Every year prescription drug plans change which drugs they cover and which drugs are subject to restrictions. Medicare private health plans can make important changes to how they cover medical services and which doctors and hospitals they will allow their members to see. Even people who feel satisfied with their plans this year must carefully review the coverage they will receive in 2009 to see if they need to change plans before the deadline.

Markets do not work when consumers must purchase complex insurance packages in the dark. It is essential that the next Congress and the next President force a standardization of the crazy quilt of Medicare private insurance products being offered. Only then will consumers have a chance to make informed choices.

The Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs and public policy initiatives.