Merritt declined to estimate how much savings most seniors would achieve with their prescription discount cards, though he said most discounts should fall within the government's estimate.
"The number could vary obviously and I'm sure it will vary," he said. HHS officials are preparing to launch media campaigns through television, print, radio, and direct mailings, encouraging seniors to visit or to call 1-800-MEDICARE where they can access an agency program that helps calculate which card is best for individual seniors.
The Bush administration's card program has sparked concern among several advocacy groups worried that widespread confusion over discount card choices and benefits could hinder its effectiveness. Several groups, including AARP, are preparing to launch educational programs to help seniors choose cards.
Ron Pollack, executive director of the consumers group Families USA, criticized the program in an interview, saying that the discounts would do little to hold down prescription drug prices, which have gone up at least 10% per year since the mid-1990s.
"The question is, discounts of what price? If prices continue to go up as they have for the last decade, then seniors are not going to feel like they got a great deal at all," he told WebMD.
Find out what experts say about how to choose your prescription drug discount card.