MARCH 01, 2006

It is no surprise that the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit has seniors dumbfounded. With >40 approved insurance plans for the drug benefit, many seniors find the program hard to navigate.

A recent poll, conducted by Ipsos, found that 52% of the respondents said they think the program is hard to understand. Two thirds of those surveyed and two thirds of those who have enrolled in a plan said that they were confused by the program. Of the respondents, one third said that they had not decided what they think of the new program, and 16% reported little trouble understanding the plan.

The multibillion-dollar program has many individuals also doubting the savings. The poll found that, of those who have enrolled in the program or have family members enrolled, 6 in 10 respondents reported no significant savings. Yet, Medicare officials predicted that Medicare Part D will cost taxpayers less than originally projected. Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, recently told Congress that the government's predicted 10-year cost has dropped from the $737 billion estimated last year to $678 billion. Premiums for enrollees also came in lower than projected: an average of $25 a month, compared with $37 a month predicted in July 2005.