"From previous studies, we knew that the Part D program was very valuable for seniors in improving drug coverage and improving adherence," McWilliams said. "What this suggests also is that implementation of Part D may not cost as much as was initially thought."
"This is an example of how primary and preventive care, and ongoing continuity of care, is important," added Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. "In the old days, before we had a drug benefit, people would skip pills, not take appropriate dosages and wouldn't renew prescriptions because they couldn't afford it. [Now we know] that if we provide comprehensive drug benefits, we can save money down the line and keep people out of higher, costlier levels of care. . . This is important, not only for people's health, but also for the bottom line."
And there may be ramifications in light of the recent Affordable Care Act.
"These partial savings from expanded drug coverage weren't considered in the costs of recent provisions to close the so-called 'donut' hole in prescription drug coverage, suggesting an added benefit of health-care reform," McWilliams said.
"By extension, these findings suggest that that, too, might cost less than expected and help keep seniors out of the hospital, which would represent a significant benefit of health-care reform," he added.
Visit the official Medicare site for more on Part D.
SOURCES: J. Michael McWilliams, M.D., Ph.D., general internist, Brigham & Women's Hospital, and assistant professor, health care policy and medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Joe Baker, president, Medicare Rights Center; July 27, 2011, Journal of the American Medical Ass
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