JAMA Study Reiterates Success of Medicare Part D

JAMA Study Reiterates Success of Medicare Part D

07.27.11 | By Kate Connors

Once again, we're looking at the value of access to prescription medicines today, fueled by a study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association (subscription required). The study, conducted by Harvard researchers, found that the Part D program is saving Medicare overall about $1,200 per year in hospital, nursing home and other costs for each senior who previously lacked comprehensive drug coverage. [Read related press release.]

Most importantly, the study's authors say, seniors are accessing and adhering to their medicines, staying healthier and enjoying a better quality of life.

As we've repeatedly said on The Catalyst, adherence to prescription medicines can have a significant impact on the health care system. The authors say that these new findings echo earlier study results that suggested wider use of medication achieved through expanded drug coverage for seniors is linked to lower spending on nondrug medical care.

"'Spending on one type of service can reduce spending on another type of service. By expanding Medicare to include drug benefits, clearly we're spending more, but we're getting a lot of value out of that spending,'" lead author Michael McWilliams said.

We've long held that Part D is a tremendous success. The program has provided unprecedented access to needed treatments for more than 30 million beneficiaries at a cost far below original projections, and with exceedingly high beneficiary satisfaction. According to a recent survey, 84 percent of seniors say they are satisfied with their coverage under Part D.
The researchers of the study, in their summary, stated it well: "The implementation of Medicare Part D was followed by significant reductions in nondrug medical spending, particularly on acute and postacute care, for elderly Medicare beneficiaries with limited prior drug coverage. The economic and clinical benefits suggested by these reductions may be enhanced by further expansions in prescription drug coverage for seniors, improvements in benefit designs for drug-sensitive conditions, and policies that integrate Medicare payment and delivery systems across drug and nondrug services."
Medicare Part D should be a model for reform, and should not be weakened by any unsound policy proposals that could dismantle the progress that JAMA is reporting today.
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