Medicare Drug Plan Marks Improve

Money, Medicare prescription drug discount cards
Elderly patients are warming up to the prescription drug benefit that begins next year for Medicare recipients, a survey shows.

Even so, the number of people who plan on not enrolling in a drug plan exceeds the number who say they will enroll, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The good news for the Bush administration and other backers of the prescription drug benefit was that for the first time since the foundation began tracking attitudes about the benefit, people were as likely to have a favorable view of it as they were to have an unfavorable view.

"The positive drum beat has caught up with the negative one," said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which specializes in health research. "But on an individual basis, most seniors still can't answer the big question: 'What does it mean for me?"'

In the survey, which was conducted earlier this month, the percentages of people who viewed the drug benefit favorably and unfavorably stood at 32 percent each. The remaining 36 percent said they didn't have enough information to give an opinion.

When the foundation began its survey in February 2004, the numbers were 55 percent unfavorable and 17 percent favorable.

"The poll is definitely showing that more knowledge means more favorable views," said Dr. Mark McClellan, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

About 1,200 adults participated in the telephone survey, including 300 respondents age 65 and older. The margin of error for the questions asked only of the elderly was plus or minus 6 percentage points.