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Study finds Medicare prescription benefit program has exceeded expectations
Date:8/24/2009

rous pharmacy benefits.

After two years, about 90 percent of seniors have drug coverage at least as generous as the standard Part D benefit. Medicare recipients in most states could choose from more than 50 different Part D plans in 2008, a sign of competition among the private companies that provide the coverage.

The number of covered drugs in the 10 largest Medicare Part D plans compared favorably with the coverage provided by other prescription drug plans that insure seniors, such as those offered by Kaiser Permanente, the Veterans Administration and the California Public Employees Retirement System.

Among the 300 prescription drugs most often used by seniors, about half were covered under the lowest co-payment tiers provided by the 10 largest Medicare Part D plans, according to the study. The number of drugs not covered varied from four to 41 among the largest Part D plans. In contrast, Kaiser Permanente and the Veterans Administration excluded 75 and 84 medications, respectively.

Although the program has exceeded initial expectations, researchers say problems remain with Medicare Part D.

A substantial number of predominantly low-income seniors still need to be better educated that enrolling in the program is in their interest and given instruction about how to evaluate the many plans offered to choose the one that best meets their prescription drug needs.

In addition, the annual spending caps included in the plans leave too many seniors without pharmacy coverage for a portion of each year, according to researchers. Recent work suggests that 3 million seniors reached the so called "donut hole" or gap in Part D coverage during 2007, with about 20 percent of seniors stopping their medications after their coverage lapsed for the year.


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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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