YO-YO PART D PREMIUMS: IS IT Rx BAIT AND SWITCH?

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Many Medicare patients who signed onwith the lowest cost Part D prescriptiondrug plans last year are facing steepincreases this year, while others are seeingtheir monthly out-of-pocket premiumcharges shrink for 2007.

These yo-yo premiums—the latest wrinklein the continuing litany of concerns surroundingthe year-old Part D prescriptiondrug benefit—drew nationwide attentionwhen the provider of the least expensivedrug plans, Humana, increased monthly premiumsfor >2 million enrolled seniors by anaverage of 60%, effective January 1, 2007.

Actually, those facing only "average"premium hikes are the lucky ones.Massachusetts Medicare patients enrolledin Humana's low-cost ($7.32 per month)plan have been hit with premium hikes of130% (to $16.90), and seniors in severalMidwestern states received increases of466%. At the same time, however, the costfor Humana's low-cost "standard" Part Dcoverage is going down in 3 states—Georgia, Louisiana, and South Carolina.

Other plans, including those sponsoredby AARP, imposed much smaller premiumincreases for 2007, leading consumeractivists to accuse Humana of "bait-and-switch"Part D pricing practices. For theirpart, however, officials at Humana saidthat the increases were justified, and that,even at the higher rates, its Part D premiumsrank among the lowest of all plans inmost states.