Medicare Part D: A Success Story


Created in the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) of 2003, and formally implemented in 2006, Medicare Part D provides affordable access to outpatient prescription drug coverage for seniors and people living with disabilities.

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Proposals to fundamentally alter the structure of Medicare Part D could jeopardize access to affordable prescription drug coverage for seniors and people living with disabilities, causing more harm than good.

Compare drug coverage before and after the implementation of Medicare Part D. Part D expanded coverage to millions of seniors who previously didn’t have access to comprehensive drug coverage.

Last week we talked about 3 reasons why Medicare Part D is a success. This week, we’re switching gears to talk about Medicare Part B. Here are 3 things to know about Medicare Part B.

January 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the implementation of Medicare Part D. Medicare’s prescription drug benefit was created in 2003 and first implemented 10 years ago so we’re sharing three reasons why Medicare Part D is a success story.

Benefit to Patients

By increasing access to needed medicines, Part D helps improve beneficiaries’ overall health and reduce the use of other costly and avoidable health care services, such as hospitalizations. For example, Part D coverage was linked to an 8 percent decrease in hospital admissions for seniors, according to a 2014 National Bureau of Economic Research study. Gaining Part D coverage also improved adherence among enrollees with congestive heart failure, which led to over $2.3 billion in annual savings to Medicare, driven by reductions in Parts A and B expenditures. Additionally, Medicare beneficiaries have enjoyed relatively stable average monthly Part D premiums (just $32 in 2015 – up just $1 from 2014), which helps keeps coverage affordable.

Success of the Program

Part D has succeeded beyond expectations, delivering needed prescription medicines at a far lower cost than anticipated due to rigorous competition in the program. According to figures from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), total program costs are $349 billion (or 45 percent) less than initial 2004-2013 projections. And in 2014, Part D represented just 10.9 percent of total Medicare spending. Another testament to the program's success: about 90 percent or more of beneficiaries are satisfied with the program (source: MedPAC, Medicare Today).

Competition and Choice

The Part D program is unique in that private plans submit competitive bids each year to determine the cost of the benefit, rather than government-set pricing. Private Part D plans compete to deliver affordable coverage for beneficiaries while also providing value for taxpayers. Medicare Part D plans also negotiate significant discounts and rebates with drug manufacturers to achieve savings on medicines, and use them to help reduce premiums, deductibles and cost-sharing for beneficiaries. With a wide range of available plans – more than 1,000 plans available nationwide, with an average of 24 plans to choose from in every region in 2015 – beneficiaries can choose a plan that best meets their individual coverage and financial needs and, in turn, they are better able to adhere to prescribed treatment regimens.