Surprise! AARP's drug plan is big winner under Medicare Part D

Thursday, May 04, 2006 at 02:40 PM

When AARP supported the patchy and strange Medicare prescription drug plan ("Part D"), several critics said it was because AARP was in the insurance business.  AARP denied it.

Now we get new info that the AARP-affiliated health plan, UnitedHealth Group, is the biggest enroller of seniors under the new plan.  So you decide.  AARP: commercial shill or protector of its aging membership?

The report points out that UnitedHealth has a 27% market share of the new prescription drug plans.  In fact, although "More than 80 companies are offering more than 1,400 Medicare prescription drug plans nationwide, ...insurers UnitedHealth Group, Humana and WellPoint account for 52% of total drug benefit enrollment, according to data released on Friday by the Bush administration."

Just being my usual negative self, but wouldn't you like to see a record of the political contributions made by, lobbying gifts & trips from, and legislator relatives employed by, these "big 3?"

On a related note, the same source reports that:

The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined how some beneficiaries "are still discovering new catches" in the drug benefit's "complicated inner workings -- details that can defy the scrutiny of even the most careful consumers." According to the Times, some beneficiaries have enrolled in drug plans without realizing that their medications might fall under a system of coverage levels called "tiers." Plans typically divide prescription drug formularies into multiple tiers, with beneficiaries paying fixed copayments for lower tiers and a higher price -- such as a percentage of total drug cost -- for upper tiers (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 5/1).