The Medicare Part D Success Story

mt-logo-final-rgb-smallEveryone loves the underdog-finds-success type of story.  And that’s exactly what the Medicare Part D program has become.  Born out of political conflict and controversy and facing no shortage of experts that predicted its demise, new information shows that the Medicare prescription drug benefit remains highly popular.

Five years after the initial enrollment period, the Medicare Part D prescription drug program still continues to defy its doubters.  At its outset, critics said health plans wouldn’t participate in Part D, but today seniors have ample choices of affordable plans.  They said the program would cost too much, but the last Medicare trustees report reported costs are 41 percent below initial expectations.  And they said seniors would find the program too confusing, but it remains enormously popular.

A survey of seniors nationwide, conducted in September by KRC Research and commissioned by Medicare Today, found that 84 percent feel favorably toward the Part D program.  That’s actually up six points from the program’s popularity rating in 2006.

Additionally, the KRC Research survey found that 65 percent of beneficiaries feel no need to shop around for another plan while 31 percent said it is very likely they will compare their current plan’s costs and benefits with available alternatives.  This finding clearly indicates to me that the majority of consumers are finding value in their current prescription drug plans.

Even with the high approval and value ratings, there is still work to be done.  Only one in five seniors are aware that eligible beneficiaries who have drug spending that places them in the so-called “donut hole” will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs beginning next year.  Seniors on limited incomes need to plan their spending and budget their resources and it’s important they know about these changes.  We also need aggressive outreach to locate those financially-challenged beneficiaries who aren’t enrolled in the program and could benefit from the Part D low-income subsidies.

The success, though, of the Part D program is underscored by the silence of its once-doubters and critics.