In a typically professorial rambling and incoherent guest column in the Middlesex News on July 8, Democratic Senatorial candidate Warren significantly misled Massachusetts senior citizens about the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. I believe her opinion column was full of other misleading statements on many health care insurance subjects but just sticking with the one about which I've done a lot of research because I am a Medicare beneficiary, I am sorry to tell you that it is totally untrue that:
"As the donut hole closes, the average Massachusetts senior has so far saved about $650. "
In fact, it's untrue four ways. You would think it pretty hard for anyone -- especially a Harvard professor -- to make four errors in a 15-word sentence but Ms. Warren has done it.
- The average Massachusetts Medicare beneficiary -- not "average Massachusetts senior," not everyone on Medicare is a senior, Ms. Warren...
- "Saved" about $8 -- not "$650;" Warren failed to read the Obama propaganda correctly that explained the so-called savings -- see third paragraph (AFTER is the operative word)...
- So far in 2012 -- Warren didn't quantify the time period...
- Because drug manufacturers are giving a very small portion of middle and upper income Massachusetts seniors a 50% discount on brand-name drugs as part of a backroom White House deal in 2009 -- it's not because "the donut hole is closing," Ms. Warren; it isn't.
The signficant qualifier that Ms. Warren missed (or about which she purposely misled Massachusetts senior citizens) is that relatively few seniors (6% to 8% depending on whose statistics you use for the whole year) come anywhere near the midpoint of the donut hole. And less than 1% go through the donut hole.
So far in 2012, only 11,000 Massachusetts residents (around 1%) are affected. Perhaps 50,000 (less than 5%) will be affected by year end. And I think the number is effectively quite a bit lower because the federal government statistics do not appear to take into account assistance for middle-class seniors from the state of Massashusetts... and possibly do not account for help for poor seniors from Social Security:
- For poor seniors there is no donut hole (and our premiums are paid for free and we have nominal co-pays).
- In Massachusetts (and 21 other states), there is additional assistance such that no one on Medicare making up to as much as around
- $16,500 in retirement (rules vary by state) should pay more than $1500 out of pocket for drugs (vs over $4000 in the donut hole); this level also includes substantial assistance with co-pays
- $21,000 in retirement should pay more than $1650 out of pocket for drugs (vs over $4000 in the donut hole)
- $25,000 in retirement should pay more than $2050 out of pocket for drugs (vs over $4000 in the donut hole).
- $33,500 in retirement should pay more than $2450 out of pocket for drugs (vs. over $4000 in the donut hole)
- $55,000 in retirement should pay more than $3260 out of pocket for drugs (vs over $4000 in the donut hole).
- Similar scaled savings are available for couples making up to $75,000 or so.
High income seniors in Massachusetts can get hit with some significant drug bills if they have some chronic or other unfortunate medical condition requiring an expensive drug therapy. It is probably little comfort given their health but they are still better off financially than before the Republicans implemented Part D in 2006, a bill that Ms. Warren's party opposed. For example, in 2005 a typical RA drug regimen cost $24,000 (in 2012 dollars); this year it would cost about $6000.
On July 5 I posted about the Boston Globe columnist's opinion piece about Medicare Part B that had 12 errors in three paragraphs. Leave it to the lefty Middlesex News to blow that record of deception out of the water in short order.
-- Dennis Byron
Update: About 12 hours after initial posting, a typo was fixed in the sentence that ends "come anywhere near the midpoint of the donut hole." Tbe words "the midpoint of the" were added to correct the entry.