Open enrollment for Medicare Part D drug program sparks debate

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In preparation for the Medicare Part D open enrollment period, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it has streamlined its coverage options and eliminated choices it considered repetitive. But critics of the changes charge that eliminating such options undermines the spirit of President Obama's pledge, “If you like your plan you can keep it.”

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) and Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA), said that the impact for many seniors will be higher monthly premiums for Medicare Part D coverage. They noted in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that CMS “has arbitrarily decided to shut down” the popular plan AARP MedicareRx Saver.

Meanwhile, proponents of the regulatory changes praised CMS in a letter to Sebelius. They said they are pleased “that CMS has taken an active role in negotiating plan bids for the 2011 plan year, resulting in improved choices for beneficiaries.” The AFL-CIO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the National Council on Aging and other groups signed this other letter.