friday afternoon i was off work and standing in line of my local pharmacy to fill a prescription. because it was the middle of the day, most of the other people there were retirees.
as i waited in line the anger of the people in front was palpable. one was arguing with the pharmacist for charging a $40.00 co-pay when, according to the plan she opted to under the new medicare drug benefit, she was supposed to be charged only $5.00. "we specifically chose a plan with our medication in mind!" she said, but all the pharmacist could say was "call your plan, maybe you can be reimbursed for the extra $35 when things get sorted out later." "i don't have $40.00. i'm on a fixed income" protested the customer. "i can't do anything. the computer says there is a $40.00 co-payment."
the protesting retiree demanded to see the person in charge and as she waited for the manager, they waited on the next person in line. she was picking up medication for herself and another family member, but was again shocked by how much she was being charged. another argument ensued. this time the problem was that the woman's doctor had not called in a new prescription for a generic drug that was an alternative to one of her pills. the generic alternative was covered under her medicare plan, the medication she had taken before was not. the woman left without her pills, vowing to call her doctor.
then it was my turn. the pharmacist visibly relieved to see that i wasn't on the new medicare plan, which went into effect on january 1st. "this week has been a nightmare" she muttered when she handed me my package.
that story came to mind when i read this article about states scrambling to cover for the problems of the new drug plan.
i know very little about the mechanics of the plan. as a young, fairly healthy person, i just haven't looked into it that much. but i do know that my wife's stepfather, a recently retired professor with a phd, had a hard time making sense of all the confusing array of private plans offered as the new drug benefit. i wonder how the less educated recipients are going to do any better. this plan has the makings of a major disaster. if the powers that be were smart, they would fix it fast before the november elections.