CMS to revise draft of 2006 Medicare handbook

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services plans to revise the preliminary draft of the 2006 Medicare handbook in the wake of widespread criticism over certain statements related to the Prescription Drug Plan.

The 106-page draft fails to mention the so-called "doughnut hole" in coverage available under the new benefit, scheduled to take effect this January, critics say. Beneficiaries will pay 25% of prescription drug costs up to $2,250 annually. But they must pay 100% of drug costs between $2,250 and $5,100 out of pocket.

Other criticisms:  The draft fails to mention that beneficiaries might have to appeal to receive coverage for certain drugs. It also understates the financial penalties for beneficiaries who enroll in the benefit after the enrollment deadline, and does not distinguish between traditional, fee-for-service Medicare and private Medicare Advantage plans.

"There will be changes," said Mark McClellan, CMS administrator. "We can communicate some things more effectively, more simply and more clearly." He will "thoroughly review the handbook before it becomes final," he added.