Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Problem-Based Learning Using the Online Medicare Part D Plan Finder Tool

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Problem-Based Learning Using the Online Medicare Part D Plan Finder Tool

Article excerpt

Objectives. To implement didactic and problem-based learning curricular innovations aimed at increasing students' knowledge of Medicare Part D, improving their ability to apply the online Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder tool to a patient case, and improving their attitudes toward patient advocacy for Medicare beneficiaries.

Methods. A survey instrument and a case-based online Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder tool exercise were administered to a single group (n 5 120) of second-year pharmacy graduate students prior to and following completion of a course on health policy. Three domains (knowledge, skill mastery and attitudes) were measured before and after two 90-minute lectures on Medicare Part D.

Results. The online Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder exercise and Medicare Part D didactic lectures had positive effects on students' knowledge of Part D, attitudes toward patient advocacy, and ability to accurately use the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder tool.

Conclusions. The success of these didactic and problem-based curricular innovations in improving pharmacy students' knowledge, skills, and attitudes regarding Part D warrants further evaluation to determine their portability to clinical settings and other pharmacy schools.

Keywords: Medicare Part D, Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder, online learning, patient advocacy

INTRODUCTION

In 2003, the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act (abbreviated Medicare Modernization Act or MMA) introduced the first outpatient prescription drug benefit ever offered for its approximately 42 million beneficiaries. (1) Its implementation in 2006 as "Medicare Part D" marked the largest expansion of the Medicare program since its inception. This new benefit heralded new opportunities and challenges for patients and pharmacists by vastly increasing access to needed prescription medicines. Medicare beneficiaries struggle to navigate the complexities of the new benefit despite educational information provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). (2) Because of their awareness of pharmacy benefit design, understanding of medication therapy management services (MTMS), and accessibility and availability to the public in the community setting, pharmacists are in a unique position to act as patient advocates. As a patient advocate, the pharmacist and pharmacy student may demystify the program, ensure therapeutic outcomes are optimized, reduce the risk of adverse events, and enroll beneficiaries in the lowest cost plan based on their current drug regimen and financial circumstances.

The range of available Medicare Part D plans means that beneficiaries are confronted with a potentially bewildering array of options that they are ill-prepared to evaluate. Sixty-three percent of Medicare beneficiaries found it difficult to select a Part D plan in 2006. Most beneficiaries who picked a plan did so without comparing plans; further, nearly half of beneficiaries received help in choosing a Part D plan. (2) Those who did compare plans had to select from among 50 or more Part D plans, depending on their state of residence. (3,4) Fifty-nine percent of clinicians report they rarely or never check Part D formulary coverage before prescribing medications, suggesting that the consequences of inappropriate plan selection go beyond financial concerns and may impact the care provided to Part D beneficiaries. (5) Patient adherence to therapy declines when patients have to pay all or part of a drug's cost. (6,7) With 10% of seniors still lacking drug coverage in 2006, and an additional 8% of seniors enrolled in plans that may or may not be "creditable" (meaning as good or better than a Part D plan), there is much to be done to ensure that all seniors have access to prescription drug coverage. (8) As patient needs--and Part D plans--may change annually, it becomes even more important for Medicare beneficiaries to evaluate individualized plan options with a skilled and unbiased advocate. …

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