(WASHINGTON)—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today joined hundreds of concerned citizens and numerous advocacy groups at a rally to protest against the Bush administration’s Medicare Part D plan during the president’s latest attempt to lift support for the ill-conceived program in Silver Spring, Md. AFGE vehemently opposes Medicare Part D because of its extraordinary complexity and aspects that will increase prescription drug prices for seniors, the disabled and others.
Medicare Part D lets private companies design and sell insurance plans offering prescription drug coverage. Consequently, the program forces individuals into managed care plans and out of the traditional and simpler Medicare plans they prefer.
“Medicare Part D is just a backdoor attempt to privatize the entire Medicare program,” said AFGE National Vice President Joe Flynn during today’s rally. “The administration tried this with Social Security and it failed. AFGE is confident that these latest attempts to gut Medicare will meet the same fate.”
Since its rollout 10 weeks ago, Medicare Part D implementation has been a disaster. The new law prevents Medicare from negotiating the lowest possible drug prices for beneficiaries and prevents them from choosing a simple drug benefit directly from Medicare. Consequently, beneficiaries are confused and distrustful about whether they should enroll and how they should choose from dozens of private insurance plans.
Additionally, missed enrollment targets, staff shortages at the federal agencies responsible for implementing the Part D program and mismanagement by the Bush administration will keep many individuals from being enrolled by the May 15, 2006 deadline. Those that don’t enroll by the deadline will see their premiums increase significantly. In some cases, the poorest beneficiaries, Medicare-Medicaid “dual eligibles,” will lose access to some drugs altogether.
“The administration misled the public about the true costs of this ridiculous program and who it really benefits,” said Flynn. AFGE projects that Medicare Part D will cost taxpayers nearly $700 billion over 10 years and $100 billion thereafter. Taxpayer subsidies to the real winners, the insurance companies, will total $46 billion over 10 years and help the companies increase profits by $139 billion.
To remedy the problem, AFGE, along with the AFL-CIO, Americans United, the Alliance for Retired Americans, the Campaign for America’s Future and Progressive Maryland, are urging elected officials to co-sponsor and support H.R. 3861 and S.1841, measures in the House and Senate respectively that would allow beneficiaries to escape paying increased premiums if they enroll by the end of 2006, change plans before the open enrollment period or dis-enroll from Medicare Part D and re-enroll in a better, prior plan.
For more information, please visit www.afge.org