Point:   A new analysis of government data by Avalere Health finds that premiums will go up an average of 10 percent among the top plans that have signed up some 70 percent of seniors. That's according to Avalere Health, a private research firm that crunched the numbers. Marketing for next year's drug plans gets under way Oct. 1, and seniors will see some of the biggest changes since the Medicare prescription benefit became available in 2006. More than 17 million are enrolled in private drug plans offered through Medicare." On the positive side, the program's benefits "will improve with a new 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs for those who land in the program's coverage gap, the dreaded 'doughnut hole.'" Avalere adds that three million seniors will see their plans discontinued.


Counterpoint:  On the other hand, Vice President Joe Biden, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced that the nation’s pharmaceutical manufacturers will provide 50 percent discounts on the cost of covered brand-name prescription drugs for beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D coverage gap, or donut hole, starting in 2011.   Vice President Biden and Secretary Sebelius made the announcement on a grassroots conference call with seniors from across the country. On the call, the Vice President and the Secretary discussed the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for seniors including the prescription drug discounts and provisions in the law that help fight fraud and make certain preventive care and annual wellness exams, free for most Medicare beneficiaries.  Seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in Medicare drug plans will also find next year that through the use of the new tools provided by the Affordable Care Act, premiums are stable and the number of prescription drug plans that voluntarily help fill the donut hole has increased. In August, CMS reported that the average 2011 Medicare prescription drug plan premium will remain similar to rates beneficiaries are currently paying this year – an increase of $1.  “Most Medicare prescription drug plan premiums will remain stable next year and beneficiaries will find there are clearer plan options and many plans that can help them save even more – like those plans that are offering benefits that help fill the donut hole,” said CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D. “They will find that the Affordable Care Act improves the value of drug coverage they get next year.”

Source 1:  Associated Press/Medical News Today (September 27, 2010)
Full story:  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/202541.php

Source 2:  HHS.gov (September 23, 2010)
Full story: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/09/20100923a.html 

As the saying goes, I report, you decide.  I guess only time will tell.

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