When the Bush administration and their allies in Congress rammed Medicare privatization legislation through Congress in 2003, the new Part D drug prescription benefit was what garnered the most attention. After all, seniors had been without drug coverage in Medicare and were eager for help.  Little did they know what a poison pill the Medicare Modernization Act would be for them and their families.  Two new reports out this week provide yet another glimpse into the ongoing problems with privatized Medicare Advantage plans and Part D.  The first comes from the Health and Human Services Department's own Inspector General.  According to federal auditors, the vast majority (about 85%) of the marketing materials that private insurers use for their Part D prescription drug plans don't even meet Medicare's guidelines.  The Associated Press reports:
"A frequent violation was a failure by plans to note that customers could get their prescriptions at a pharmacy other than the one advertised on the marketing product. In some cases, there was no alphabetical index of drugs that a plan covered, potentially hindering beneficiaries' ability to find information about their drugs."
 What a surprise...drug insurers who are in business to sell their products (versus Medicare which exists to provide coverage) aren't mentioning their competitors or providing information which might fully educate their consumers.  Is this the "magic of the market" we've been promised?   The second report comes from the Commonwealth Fund.  The issue brief entitled "The Continuing Cost of Privatization: Extra Payments to Medicare Advantage Plans in 2008"  provides new information on the billions of dollars of wasteful subsidies still flowing to private insurers in Medicare.  The report details: 
"The authors calculate that payments to MA plans in 2008 will be 12.4 percent greater than the corresponding costs in traditional Medicare-an average increase of $986 per MA plan enrollee, for a total of more than $8.5 billion. Over the five-year period 2004-2008, extra payments to MA plans are estimated to have totaled nearly $33 billion. Although Congress recently enacted modest reductions in MA plan payments, these changes will not take effect until 2010. Moreover, while the new legislation removes a few factors contributing to the extra payments, a number of other factors remain unaffected."
 Lastly, here's a discussion at Healthcare Policy and Marketplace Review of  privatized Medicare's long-term viability (or lack thereof).