Please Help Reduce Medicare Drug Confusion

Medicare drug coverage sign-up began yesterday. While you may not be enrolling right now, the Great Government Health Care Information Debacle of 2005 affects all Americans.

Anyone who has ever looked for information on a government website knows that going to "The Official U.S. Government Site for People with Medicare" will only confuse them more. Doesn’t anyone in the federal government recognize that their websites suck? Section titles make no sense unless you work in the department that created them, navigation is convoluted, the writing is totally inaccessible and every page needs its own acronym dictionary.

Furthermore, who thought it was a good idea to make a website the primary source of information for people 65 and older? Age isn’t necessarily a predictor of computer literacy, but, based on statistics from June 2005, a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project states that only 26% of Americans age 65 and older go online. That only leaves 74% in the dark.

Figuring out health care benefits is always stressful. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been in tears because something that I thought was covered isn’t or because I can’t get a certain drug I need. Imagine that exasperation and fear on top of knowing that this will be your health insurance provider for the rest of your life.

My request to you all is simple. If you know someone who is struggling to figure out their Medicare drug benefit, even if it’s a neighbor you talk to five times a year, please help. Use your computer knowledge to bypass the government’s Medicare site. You can find sites with less confusing information, news coverage and local in-person assistance. Print out the information you find and pass it along or point internet-savvy seniors to one of the following links.

  • Some drug store chains, like CVS, Walgreens and Wal-Mart, are providing face-to-face chats, brochures and town halls to help out (and perhaps win the business of the people they help). Each company’s website also has detailed drug benefit information.
  • NPR has a thorough Q & A with links to relevant stories at the end.
  • USA Today offers an easy guide to do a basic search on the Medicare site.
  • Look for guides or meeting announcements on your local newspaper or TV stations’ websites.
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