Medicare's Drug Benefit: A Progress Report

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<p>Medicare's Part D drug benefit has succeeded in extending prescription coverage to the majority of seniors who previously lacked it, but seniors with Part D coverage do not fare as well as those with coverage through employer-sponsored insurance or Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, according to a <a href="/cnlib/pub/enews_clickthrough.htm?enews_item_id=29612&return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecommonwealthfund%2Eorg%2Fpublications%2Fpublications%5Fshow%2Ehtm%3Fdoc%5Fid%3D516617%26%23doc516617">new study</a> published today in the online edition of <em>Health Affairs.</em><br /><br />Based on a fall 2006 survey conducted by Tufts-New England Medical Center, with support from the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Commonwealth Fund, the study finds that elderly Americans with prescription coverage from any source were less likely to face high monthly drug expenses, or to skip medications because of the cost, than seniors who remained without prescription coverage. But those in Part D plans were more likely to report such problems than those with employer or VA coverage. <br /><br />Many low-income seniors remain without drug coverage, and those lacking coverage are more likely to be older and African American, as well as more likely to live in a rural area. Moreover, although low-income seniors may qualify for a subsidy to pay for coverage and defray out-of-pocket costs, almost half of those who do not receive that subsidy said that they were not aware of it. <br /><br />Much work remains to be done to strengthen Part D and to reach seniors who are still without coverage, the study's authors conclude.</p>