A Decade of Proving Critics Wrong

As it was enacted into law in 2003, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which would come to be known as Medicare Part D, had no shortage of critics.  A New York Times story cited fears that the program’s private sector-based structure would leave “the elderly exposed to a future of soaring drug costs.”

Others said that insurers would never agree to create drug-only plans and that the marketplace would be bereft of options for seniors.  And then there were the persistent critics who argued that offering seniors a broad range of competitive plan choices, instead of a one-size-fits-all government-run approach, would only confuse and frustrate them.

Now, ten years after Medicare Part D was fully implemented, those arguments have long been put to rest.  Our Medicare Today coalition conducts an annual nationwide survey of seniors to ascertain how well the prescription drug program is working for them.  The results, as has been the case every year, show that this remains an enormously popular program that is changing lives for the better by making prescription medications affordable and accessible.

Here’s what we learned from this year’s Morning Consult survey of approximately 2,000 seniors:

  • 88 percent are satisfied with the Medicare Part D coverage
  • 80 percent say their plan is a good value
  • 92 percent report their plan is convenient to use
  • 84 percent say it is important for them to have a variety of plans from which to choose (the ‘competition will cause confusion’ argument never did hold water and was, quite frankly, demeaning to seniors)

And, as to the concerns expressed over a decade ago regarding ‘soaring’ costs, Medicare Part D’s structure in which plans compete on the basis of value has resulted in average monthly premiums staying relatively stable at just over $30 for several years now.

Unfortunately, years after the original criticisms of Part D have long been vanquished by the program’s indisputable successes, there are still efforts to scramble its existing structure and give the federal government a significantly greater role in pricing and drug accessibility.  We can only hope that policymakers take note of these polling numbers and realize it would make little sense to fundamentally change a program that is not only popular but fulfilling its intended mission.