Part D Misses Millions with Low Incomes
An estimated 3.3 million low-income elders are not benefiting from Medicare Part D, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report titled "Improving the Medicare Part D Program for the Most Vulnerable Beneficiaries" by Georgetown University's Laura Summer and colleagues.
Now well into its second year, the prescription drug benefit is falling short of serving many of the frailest, sickest and most vulnerable beneficiaries, according to the study. Although Part D has improved access to needed medications for millions of Americans, says the report, "an estimated 3.3 million of the 13.2 million beneficiaries eligible for a low-income subsidy to help pay for premiums and medication co-payments are not receiving that help."
In addition, the authors found that the complexity of Part D "poses additional challenges for 'dual eligibles'-Medicare beneficiaries who also qualify for Medicaid benefits." Most of these Medicare-Medicaid-eligible people previously had received drug coverage through Medicaid but were switched to Medicare coverage under Part D and automatically assigned to eligible plans beginning January i, 2006. "Although dual eligibles had the option to switch to a different plan for their drug coverage if they preferred, they were not necessarily in a good position to effectively do so," states the report.
The authors continue, "In addition to having the lowest incomes, this group disproportionately includes beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions that result in high prescription drug usage: Dual eligibles average 10 more prescriptions per month than other beneficiaries. …