New survey shows that more people on Medicare dislike a new drug benefit law

A new survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health shows that more people on Medicare dislike a new law that adds a drug benefit to the Medicare program.

The survey found that nearly twice as many people on Medicare have an unfavorable view of the law (47%) as have a favorable view (26%), and one in four (25%) say that they don't know enough to offer an opinion.

Overall, two out of three people on Medicare (66%) say that lawmakers in Washington should work to fix problems in the law. Much smaller numbers favor repealing the law (10%) or leaving the law as is (13%), according to a national survey of 1,223 seniors and people with disabilities who receive Medicare conducted from June 16 to July 21. The survey, Views of the New Medicare Drug Law: A Survey of People On Medicare, was conducted jointly by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health to provide insight into the opinions of the 41 million Americans on Medicare, including the 6 million people on Medicare under age 65 who have permanent disabilities.

"Fifteen months from implementation, seniors are mostly negative and very confused, but there is little evidence of a large scale backlash," said Drew Altman, President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. "This survey suggests that there will be big debates in the future about the prescription drug law, but they will be about improving it, not repealing it."

The majority of people on Medicare think the new law will be helpful for most people on Medicare, but most don't think the law will be helpful to them personally. About three in 10 view the new law as very (9%) or somewhat (19%) helpful to them personally.

The groups most likely to be helped by the new law - those with low incomes and those low who currently have no drug coverage - are not significantly more likely than others to think the law will help them personally.

A third (33%) of people on Medicare with incomes under $20,000 annually, and three in 10 people on Medicare with no drug coverage (31%), say the new law will be very or somewhat helpful for them personally.

With the full Medicare drug benefit set to take effect in January 2006, most people on Medicare (62%) say they haven't yet heard enough to decide whether they will enroll in a Medicare drug plan when the benefit becomes available in 2006, while 16% say they will enroll, and 21% say they will not enroll. More of those who currently have no prescription drug coverage (23%) say they will enroll in the benefit in 2006, but 11% say they will not enroll, and nearly two thirds (65%) say they haven't yet heard enough to decide.

People on Medicare say that they get information about Medicare and prescription drugs from various sources. Four in 10 (42%) say they saw any television advertisements about the Medicare law in the previous month, and a similar number (41%) say they saw news coverage about the new Medicare law in the previous month. Among those who have seen TV ads, more say the ads were positive (34%) than negative (9%) towards the new law, while nearly half (47%) say they were mixed.

Six in 10 (60%) say they have gotten information in the mail about the new Medicare-Approved Drug Discount Card Program. They say that this information comes from a variety of sources, including the government and private companies selling discount cards.

Six in 10 people on Medicare (60%) say they have heard of 1-800-MEDICARE, and 16% of these (10% overall) say they have called the toll-free number. More than one in eight (14%) say they have heard of the web site, though only 4% overall say they have visited the site. A quarter of people on Medicare (25%) say they have ever been online to use the Internet or e-mail.

The survey showed that disabled people under age 65 who receive Medicare are more likely to use these resources than seniors. Disabled people under age 65 who are on Medicare are significantly more likely than seniors to be online (33% vs. 24%), to have visited (10% vs. 4%), and to have called 1-800-MEDICARE (16% vs. 9%).


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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