News Release

Medicare: Rich HMOs, Sick Patients

STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER
Associate professor of medicine at Harvard University, Woolhandler said today: “The Bush health agenda is to privatize Medicare — to shift the taxpapers’ money away from sick patients and toward the drug and insurance industries. The Medicare Part D bill included over $40 billion in excess payments to HMOs. Because the Medicare Part D bill prohibits the government from negotiating with the drug companies for lower prices, it will provide a windfall to the drug industry — a windfall worth at least another $40 billion. Now Bush announces major cutbacks to hospitals and home care agencies that actually provide care to Medicare patients, and plans to make poor Medicaid patients reach into their own pockets to pay for health care. Bush is determined to redistribute health care dollars upward — away from the sick and poor, and towards his friends in corporate America. We need real health reform, a non-profit national health insurance system covering everyone.” Woolhandler is co-director of the Harvard Medical School General Internal Medicine Fellowship Program and a co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program.
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REESE ERLICH
Freelance journalist Erlich investigated the Medicare drug program for The California Report, a statewide news program airing on National Public Radio stations. He said today: “Many people are aware of the bureaucratic problems with implementing Medicare Plan D. But even after those are settled, tremendous problems remain. Six million people in the U.S. are enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid. They were forcibly enrolled into Plan D, and the vast majority now must pay more for their drugs. Co-payments may range from a few dollars to over one hundred dollars per month. People who are HIV-positive, receiving assistance through the AIDS Drugs Assistance Program, are hit even harder. I interviewed one woman who will have to pay over 40 percent of her monthly disability income for health expenses — which were free before Plan D.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167