Close to 24 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Part D coverage for prescription drugs in the first two enrollment cycles. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), more than 75 percent of beneficiaries are satisfied with the program. However, evidence suggests that seniors who were uncovered in 2005 benefited more than other enrollees in 2006. HHS has announced that more than 90 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in a stand-alone prescription drug plan will have access to at least one plan with a lower premium in 2008; and the third open enrollment period is now upon us – November 15 through December 31, 2007.
But not all analysts and beneficiary advocates have pronounced the program a success in providing prescription drug coverage to the targeted group. Some say that the complexity of the program has prevented eligible beneficiaries from enrolling and taking advantage of the low-income subsidy. Others say that, even when enrolled, not all seniors are able to get the medicines they need.
Other policy issues also remain: Do beneficiaries continue to fill prescriptions when they reach the “doughnut hole” and the full cost comes out of their pockets? Do beneficiaries in rural areas have access to pharmacies that can handle this new benefit? How are dually-eligible beneficiaries, those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, faring? Do all eligible persons understand the benefit and how to choose a plan that best meets their needs? Have the costs to taxpayers been more or less than expected?
To address these and related questions, The Commonwealth Fund and the Alliance for Health Reform are sponsoring a November 5 luncheon briefing. Panelists will be: Tracey McCutcheon, deputy director of the Medicare Drug Benefit Group at CMS; Stuart Guterman, senior program director for The Commonwealth Fund’s Program on Medicare’s Future; Laura Summer, senior research scholar at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute; and John Rother, policy and strategy director for the AARP. Ed Howard of the Alliance will moderate.
1 News Release, September 27, 2007, US DHHS.
Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)