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Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Shows Mixed Results
Date:4/22/2008

More getting drugs they need, but sickest still going without, study finds

TUESDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- The Medicare Part D benefit has resulted in some improvements for seniors but no real revolution in prescription drug adherence.

A new report finds that Medicare beneficiaries are less likely to forego basic needs such as food to pay for medicine, but the sickest patients are still skipping meds due to burdensome costs.

"It's a mixed picture. We saw some things to be happy about and others to be concerned about," said study author Jeanne Madden, an instructor in the department of ambulatory care and prevention at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "Although this is the third year [of the program], the good data is just starting to come to the surface. It bears a lot of additional scrutiny."

Madden's study is in the April 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"This study reveals that the federal government has more work to do to assure that the Medicare Part D program meets the needs of the most vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries," Gail Shearer, director of health policy analysis at Consumers Union, said in a statement. "It is unacceptable that the sickest beneficiaries may not be filling prescriptions or taking the full doses or courses of their medicines because they simply can't afford to."

Medicare Part D, which provides drug benefits, took effect in January 2006. More than half of Medicare beneficiaries have enrolled in the program. Some 10 percent of beneficiaries still have no drug coverage, compared to up to 38 percent before the program took effect.

Surveys have shown that without adequate prescription drug benefits, seniors tend to skip doses, reduce doses or leave prescriptions unfilled. This, in turn, can result in serious health outcomes, including even heart attack and stroke.

Madden and her team looked at survey respon
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