Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Has Succeeded In Providing Coverage

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Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit

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The Medicare prescription drug benefit "has largely succeeded in itsprimary goal of providing drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries whopreviously lacked it," but "it has fallen short in providing subsidiesto low-income Americans, in protecting people from high out-of-pocketcosts and in matching the benefits offered by other private and publicsources of coverage," a New York Timeseditorial states. "Hefty subsidies" for low-income Medicarebeneficiaries enrolled in prescription drug plans "have made a bigdifference in cutting costs for those who received them," the editorialstates. However, the editorial states that about "3.4 million to 4.7million people who are eligible are not receiving the extra help, manybecause they are unaware of the benefit."

According to the editorial, a survey conducted last year by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Commonwealth Fund and Tufts-New England Medical Centerfound that although the Medicare prescription drug benefit "had a bigimpact in helping to reduce the percentage of older Americans withoutdrug coverage," many beneficiaries "were less protected against highdrug costs than their counterparts in other plans."

Theeditorial adds, "The unfortunate consequence for patient health is thatMedicare enrollees were much more likely to postpone medicationsbecause of the cost." The editorial states, "These shortcomings willneed attention as the program rolls forward," and "any tendency toconsider the job done is to be avoided" (New York Times, 9/3).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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