Dealing With Medicare Drug Cards

I read with great interest and concern the issues that Lisa Barrett Mann faced in trying to help her mother find a Medicare-approved drug discount card ["Pick A Card!#?$!" May 18]. Our goal is to use the new Medicare law to allow seniors and people with disabilities to save money on their prescription medicines.

We appreciate the high level of attention and the feedback we received from beneficiaries and others in the first days of this new program. It's important that it be as easy as possible for Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of these great savings. That's why we will continue to refine and improve 1-800-MEDICARE and by using feedback from all interested parties, including the experiences of your reporter.

Mann reported that her mother paid $453.96 per month for nine drugs. Our review of the discounts available to her mother through at least one of the discount cards shows substantial savings -- over 30 percent of what she's paying now. That's about $1,000 in savings this year alone -- enough to warrant a second look, certainly. Given our recent improvements to 1-800-MEDICARE and, she will be able to get through in a timely way and if she follows our simple steps -- have her mother's Zip code, drugs and dosages, and income information ready -- she will be able to quickly get information about how to get the best discounted prices for all of her mother's drugs, while still going to her preferred pharmacy.

Mark B. McClellan, MD, PhD


Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services


Thank you, thank you, thank you! I, too, have been trying to research Medicare drug plans for my mother (age 92). I thought I had lost what few brain cells I have remaining when I could make no sense out of the Medicare Web site. This is a cruel hoax on our nation's seniors.

Barbara Shively

La Plata

Your article was a clear exposition of the faulty Medicare-approved drug card. Clear-cut benefits are for the truly needy low-income seniors. Changes by providers are permitted to occur as often as weekly and may negate carefully investigated card choices.

The Montgomery County SHIP (Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program) has fielded many calls by bewildered, fragile seniors who are unable to use the Web, comprehend the Medicare telephone advisers, etc. This program fails to deal with the implementation and overstates the benefits and ease of use.

Arnold A. Lear

Counselor, Montgomery County SHIP


Throwing Women a Curve

As a Curves franchise owner (two Northern Virginia locations open; a third to open soon), I was disappointed by your article on high-speed gym workouts ["30 Minutes and Out," May 18]. The article contained a number of inaccuracies.

1) There are more than 5,500 U.S. franchises, not 1,500 as your article states.

2) Your statement that 30-minute workouts "are generally insufficient to meet current weekly aerobic and strength training recommendations" is subjective and false. For most women it is more than enough.

3) The observation by the Maryland kinesiology instructor that the use of hydraulic equipment with a single resistance setting means "once a woman has mastered the workout, she can't challenge herself further with the machines" is inaccurate. The faster you move with hydraulic machines, the more resistance you create. So as a woman gets stronger, she simply increases her speed to have the machines challenge her more.

4) Contrary to what you write, Curves is not "for women only." While it is true the Curves workout was designed for women, in Virginia we cannot discriminate.

5) You list membership fees as ranging from $39 to $69 a month. The only location I know of where the cost is $69 a month is Manhattan.

Jim Gasson


Editor's Note: According to a spokeswoman for Curves International, the current number of Curves locations in the United States is more than 6,800 and growing daily.

Teaching New Doctors Old Tricks

It was not made clear whether Virginia Hoffman's objection to being seen by interns ["The Right to Remain Safe," May 18] was to being seen by interns or to not being asked "if it was okay." If the latter, the problem could have been solved simply by bringing it to the attention of the doctor. If the former, I have a suggestion:

The descendants of anyone who objects to being seen by an intern or resident should be treated only by physicians who have never had any practical experience during their training. Their training would consist of reading books and treating mannequins. This would dramatically reduce the burden on hospitals and the physicians who do the training. It would also reduce the expense of educating our future doctors and, thus, the bills they carry with them when they enter practice.

The renal specialist called to my late husband's bedside during the last week of his life brought with him five interns. Although I could write a book about events during his 10-week stay to which I would vehemently object, it never occurred to me to object to this. Who knows? One of these interns might have had the magical insight to save his life.

For myself, I want to be treated by physicians who have seen as many cases like mine as possible before they get to me.

Martha Lewis


Kids Deserve More Than a Slacker Mom

"Slacker Mom" [Kidlife, May 11] has found a way to put her needs ahead of her children's and rationalized that it is "good for the kids."

Sherry Starr

Silver Spring

The column was great. It's nice to read about regular people with real lives of their own who are helping their kids become independent and thinking adults. If everything gets done for children -- and scheduled -- they don't have a chance to create for themselves. We have plenty of "down" time at our house where my youngest daughter gets to play outside and the oldest one often reads. Keep it up!

Holly Williams

Warrenton, Va.


"Communicating Quietly" [May 18] misspelled name of the Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human Disabilities.