Y2K for Medicare
A potential crisis looms. A crisis created by the President and his pals in Big Pharma. An imminent threat plagues our country at midnight New Years Eve and few are preparing for the onslaught.
Who will defend us!?
So maybe fewer people are buying survival gear this New Years than did for Y2K but one city is wisely preparing for an emergency that may be soon at hand: Baltimore.
"With the federal government still struggling to explain the ins and outs of the Medicare prescription benefit that takes effect Jan. 1, officials in one city have come up with an inventive approach of their own: They are treating the complex program as if it were a massive outbreak of disease and mobilizing local resources accordingly.
..it is activating its emergency surveillance and response system. It was created primarily to deal with unexpected health threats such as a bird flu outbreak or an anthrax attack. But in January, health officials will use it to monitor the federal government's rollout of the $700-billion-a-year drug benefit for the elderly and to deal with problems such as interruptions in coverage
"We are treating it like a potential threat to public health in Baltimore," Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the health commissioner, said in an interview.
Baltimore has a high percentage of citizens living near or below the poverty line, and Sharfstein's main concern is that seniors now covered by Medicaid will be automatically switched into private drug plans that may not provide some of the medications they have been receiving. These seniors are more likely to be in poor health and suffer from serious medical problems, including mental impairment, than the average Medicare beneficiary, experts say. These seniors are more likely to be in poor health and suffer from serious medical problems, including mental impairment, than the average Medicare beneficiary, experts say."
I'm also excited by the city's plan to monitor consumer complaints to see if private companies aren't following their own rules. They will also scan hospital records to see if there is an increase in emergency room visits caused by people missing their medications. Frankly, Baltimore's Mayor O'Malley's search for data could greatly contribute to the national debate.
All this could return to haunt the Bush plan's supporters. I saw my Aunt with a PhD. struggling to figure out which plan to take. She's not sure she made the right choice.
When public policy sounds more like a John Carpenter film than something for the public good, municipalities have got to take matters in to their own hands and fight back!