Tag Archives: Medicare Part D

Take Time to Evaluate Options During Medicare Part D Enrollment

AZ Stock_10.25.13With Medicare enrollment now open, seniors across the country have an opportunity to select the Part D prescription drug plan that best suits their needs and budgets – and that may mean making a change from the previous year.

However, a recently issued Kaiser Family Foundation report indicates that on average, only 30 percent of Medicare Part D enrollees choose to switch plans during the annual enrollment period.  The same study showed that the average premium is expected to increase by five percent across all prescription drug plans from 2013 to 2014, unless enrollees select lower-priced plans.

With a number of changes to Medicare prescription drug plans in 2014, and with 13 percent more stand-alone plan options available than last year, understanding the plans and shopping around for the right one might be warranted and might mean decreased costs for some Medicare Part D enrollees.  Premiums and out-of-pocket expenses aside, exploring different plans might also lead to increased convenience and quality in coverage.

Seniors can leverage a number of tools available, such as the government’s online plan finder and other resources to fully evaluate their options and select the right plan for them this year.

Survey: Medicare Rx program highly popular

pharmacist

The Medicare prescription drug benefit is still popular after all these years. Nine in 10 seniors with Medicare prescription drug coverage are satisfied with the program, and 97 percent said their coverage works well, according to a survey released by Medicare Today.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • 96 percent said they felt “peace of mind” by having prescription drug coverage under Medicare, known as Part D.
  • 95 percent said their plan is convenient to use.
  • 84 percent said both their premiums and co-pays are affordable.
  • 88 percent said their Part D plan is meeting their expectations.
  • 72 percent said they are better off now than before they had Part D coverage.
  • And 89 percent would recommend the program to someone considering Medicare enrollment.

“Ten years after becoming law, it is clear that seniors remain happy with their Part D coverage and that the program is meeting their healthcare needs,” said Mary R. Grealy, chairman of Medicare Today and president of the Healthcare Leadership Council.

Not only are seniors happy with the Medicare prescription drug benefit, it is a good deal for them – and the system as a whole.

2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 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.

The study found that Medicare Part D enrollees who had inadequate prescription drug coverage or no prescription drug coverage prior to enrolling in the Part D benefit each saved an average of $1,200 per year, which resulted in savings of $12 billion in federal spending for non-drug costs in the Medicare program.

Medicare Part D: Don’t Mess with Success

American Pharmacists MonthIf imitation is the greatest form of flattery, then the federal government should be flattered that states have begun using the market-based structure of the highly successful Medicare Part D program as a model for their Medicaid programs.  Peter Pitts, a former associate commissioner with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, addresses examples of states providing Medicaid services through private insurers in an op-ed appearing in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

It is the competition from private insurers in the Medicare Part D program that has contributed to reduced costs, and just as importantly, to healthcare that works for the seniors who rely on it.

Medicare Part D provides affordable outpatient prescription drug coverage for seniors and people with disabilities and has been hugely successful by many measures.  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Part D program has cost the government 45 percent less than initially expected when Congress approved the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.  Ninety percent of Part D beneficiaries are satisfied with the program.  And according to a study released earlier this year, improved medication adherence associated with expansion of drug coverage under Part D led to nearly $2.6 billion in reductions in medical expenditures annually among beneficiaries diagnosed with congestive heart failure and without prior comprehensive drug coverage, of which over $2.3 billion was savings to Medicare.

In his analysis, Pitts goes on to question why some politicians are now proposing changes to Medicare Part D to “substitute government price controls for the competitive marketplace that has been so effective in keeping costs down.”  We agree.  Medicare Part D is a federal program that has produced impressive, meaningful cost savings and greater access to the medicines that patients need – medicines that in some instances have likely prevented more significant and costly health issues.  The fact that Medicare Part D may serve as a model for some states to emulate in their Medicaid programs is just one more reason not to mess with success.

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.

Seniors satisfied with Medicare prescription drug program

The Medicare prescription drug benefit is working well for America’s seniors.

A new survey of seniors by the Medicare Today coalition provides additional evidence that the Medicare prescription drug benefit offers seniors affordable, effective access to the medicines they need.

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.

Today, more than 29 million Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in a prescription drug benefit plan, and 90 percent of all beneficiaries have comprehensive drug coverage.

Of these beneficiaries, the survey found that:

–Nearly 80 percent of seniors say they have lowered their drug spending, an increase of eight percentage points from when the program started.

–Compared to other subgroups, low income beneficiaries and dual eligibles (beneficiaries eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare) show the highest satisfaction rate with their drug coverage – 90 percent of dual eligibles are satisfied with their coverage and for those beneficiaries earning $15,000 or less in income, 96 percent are satisfied.

–Large majorities of respondents say that the program is delivering good value, and they would recommend it to their peers. Further, 95 percent of respondents say their plan is working well.

And, as we explain here, there is growing evidence that seniors’ access to prescription medicines through the Medicare program is improving health outcomes and lowering costs.

Visit the Medicare Today website to view the entire survey.