New drug benefit options disappoint Florida seniors

They expect little help from prescription plan


HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - In the condominiums and on the palm-shaded beaches here, where Medicare is a frequent topic of conversation, few people expect to get much help from the new drug benefit just approved by Congress.

They express disappointment but little surprise; they say they never had high hopes. They say they feel they were sold out, by Republicans and the AARP, which endorsed a Medicare bill drafted mainly by Republicans. But the Democrats, they say, did not fight hard enough for a better drug benefit.

"We've been waiting, waiting for this prescription drug bill to provide some relief to seniors, but it won't do much for them, not much at all," said Lorraine M. Angelotti, 72, of Fort Lauderdale. "You would have to be a major, major user of very expensive medications to get any kind of halfway decent benefit."

The drug benefit has often been described as the biggest expansion of Medicare since its creation in 1965. Some people here, especially those who have been struggling to pay for prescription drugs, applauded the change. But Ernest D. DeBlasis, 73, echoed the view of many when he said the new coverage "amounts to peanuts."

"It's not going to help me," said DeBlasis, who spends half the year here and half in Marlboro, N.J., where he was an architect. "Let's hope Congress revises this thing before it takes effect in 2006."

Several Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 75 said they would need lawyers to figure out the new benefits. The options could be even more complex than they realize. Under the bill, insurers could offer variations of the standard drug benefit.

Joseph S. Shapiro, 89, out for his morning stroll on the Broadwalk, said: "People have to pray that they get very ill. If you are in semi-bad shape, you get very little or nothing from the new Medicare bill."

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