Seniors and the donut hole

American seniors have increased access to medicines via the Medicare prescription drug program.

The Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors and the disabled is saving them money while helping them get the medicines they need, even if they’ve reached the coverage gap, the Associated Press found:

“WASHINGTON (AP) – Medicare’s prescription coverage gap is getting noticeably smaller and easier to manage this year for millions of older and disabled people with high drug costs.

“The “doughnut hole,” an anxiety-inducing catch in an otherwise popular benefit, will shrink about 40 percent for those unlucky enough to land in it, according to new Medicare figures provided in response to a request from The Associated Press.

“The average beneficiary who falls into the coverage gap would have spent $1,504 this year on prescriptions. But thanks to discounts and other provisions in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, that cost fell to $901, according to Medicare’s Office of the Actuary, which handles economic estimates.

“A 50 percent discount that the law secured from pharmaceutical companies on brand name drugs yielded an average savings of $581. Medicare also picked up more of the cost of generic drugs, saving an additional $22. The estimates are averages, so some Medicare recipients may do worse and others better.”

The AP’s findings are important in light of a study that found patients who enter the “donut hole” or coverage gap are twice as likely to discontinue their medications as they are to switch to more affordable or generic medications.

Need further evidence that the Medicare prescription drug benefit is working well?

–Five years into the Medicare prescription drug program, an overwhelming majority – 88 percent – of America’s seniors and disabled are satisfied with their prescription drug coverage

–Medicare Part D beneficiaries’ premiums did not increase from 2011 to 2012

–American seniors’ increased access to medicines via the Medicare prescription drug program led to reduced spending on post-acute care such as hospitals and nursing homes

Today, more than 29 million Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in a Part D plan, and 90 percent of all beneficiaries have comprehensive drug coverage. AstraZeneca believes the Medicare Part D program is a model for how the private sector and public sector can work together to provide critical access to medicines that improve our nation’s health.