Problems with New Medicare Prescription Drug Plan

January 2, 2006 -- Posted at 7:18 p.m. CST


JONESBORO, AR -- The newest headache for seniors across the country is in full swing.  The new Medicare prescription drug plan known as "Medicare Part D" started January first, and many seniors still don't fully understand the plans that they are signed up for.


Adding more fuel to the fire are the problems that pharmacies are experiencing with the new program.


“It is very confusing to a lot of people still yet today.  We're trying to get their new information loaded into our computer,” said Pharmacist Ken Gibson of Gibson’s Pharmacy.


Because this plan is new everyone must be entered into a computer program… a program that has a few problems.  “The problem we're running into is the people we call for help aren't there,” said Pharmacist Brandon Cooper of Soo’s Pharmacy.


“There have been problems right of the bat with misinformation given to us by the insurance people,” said Gibson.  Gibson spent 45 minutes on the phone this morning dealing with that misinformation, and some of the customers are not handling the process well.


“We had a guy who just went home and told his neighborhood that the cards weren't working right and we had four or five people call and want to know how they were going to get their medicine today,” said Gibson.


There are about 43 million seniors who are eligible for this new prescription drug plan.  But only about 1 million have actually signed up for what some consider the most confusing benefits plan ever.


Senior Citizen Edith Doyle said, “I don’t understand any of it.  I really don’t.”  Juanita Doyle has even researched the new plan and she’s still confused, “This new plan came out and I read through it.  I took it to my sister and we read it and I took it to several others and nobody understood it.”


Pharmacists say this type of confusion is felt by many seniors in Region 8.  “They'll say, ‘Well I thought I was going to get a co-pay of three dollars on this' and it's not that yet. We're having to meet that 250 dollar deductible,” said Gibson.


“You've got 50 different plans just in Arkansas and seniors are trying to wade through that,” said Cooper.  A wading process that is slower because many seniors don't have access to the information -- information available primarily on the internet.  A luxury many seniors don’t have access to. 


“Most people do not have a card they do not have a letter from their plan giving them an ID number,” said Cooper.


That ID number is necessary to show the pharmacy what plan you have.   If you have received your paperwork from Medicare bring it with you so your pharmacist can get you into the new system.


Pharmacists speculate it should take about a month or so to get all the kinks worked out.

Medicare officials say there's still plenty of time to sign up for a plan.  Enrollment ends May 15th.