Part D: Medicare’s shining star

Big things are happening for Medicare and its Part D prescription drug benefit. The Medicare program celebrated its  49th anniversary, a report by its trustees pointed to a fiscally healthier Medicare and that same report revealed that seniors have saved more than $11.5 billion on prescription drugs or an average $1407 for the 8.2 million enrolled in Part D.

Since Medicare Part D was enacted just over a decade ago, prescription drug coverage for beneficiaries has drastically improved. Through the program’s utilization of free-market principles, Part D provides access to needed medications, while controlling costs for both beneficiaries and taxpayers. To date, it is the best example of a federal program that works, for everyone. If there was doubt, last week provided two new pieces of concrete evidence to back the claim that the program is popular and competition is working well.

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In tandem with the finding on actual savings, it comes as no surprise that the release of the annual Senior Satisfaction Survey conducted by Medicare Today found that nearly nine out of ten seniors are satisfied with Part D.

Competition and variety are the bedrock principles that make Part D a success year after year. Multiple plan offerings not only give beneficiaries choice, but also, uses basic market principles to keep costs low for taxpayers. In fact, 86 percent of seniors say their Part D co-pays are affordable, and 85 percent say the same of their monthly premiums which are only expected to increase by $1 dollar in 2015.

Part D is set to continue to be an affordable and effective part of what keeps seniors healthy. Today, 68 percent of seniors believe they are better off than they were before they had Part D coverage, and 71 percent have greater peace of mind because of their drug coverage. Part D has established itself as a critical part of our health system and will continue to exceed expectations in providing affordable, quality health coverage to millions of seniors. 

Not only is Part D critical in its own right, through increased adherence, it also helps to reduce costs in the rest of Medicare. As seniors stay healthier through a regimented medication program, they require less hospital care and experience fewer complications, effectively relieving pressure from other parts of Medicare. Part D is a critical part of keeping seniors healthy as 67 percent of seniors say they would be unable to fill all of their prescriptions doctors prescribe without the program. 

Part D lowers health care costs for seniors and reduces federal health care spending, and it’s shown its value in a shorter amount of time than many other health care programs. The program isn’t perfect and there will always be opportunities to improve it, but changes should not be implemented without the consent of seniors and should not result in higher costs especially to low income seniors. Nearly nine in ten seniors cannot be wrong about Part D. It is critical that our legislators and regulators work to safeguard and strengthen such a critically important program for the future.

Blancato is executive director of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs.

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