Editorial Gives Medicare Drug Benefit Mixed Review
The Medicare prescription drug benefit "has largely succeeded in its primary goal of providing drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries who previously lacked it," but "it has fallen short in providing subsidies to low-income Americans, in protecting people from high out-of-pocket costs and in matching the benefits offered by other private and public sources of coverage," a New York Times editorial states.
"Hefty subsidies" for low-income Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in prescription drug plans "have made a big difference in cutting costs for those who received them," the editorial states.
However, the editorial states, about "3.4 million to 4.7 million people who are eligible are not receiving the extra help, many because 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 Center found that, although the Medicare prescription drug benefit "had a big impact in helping to reduce the percentage of older Americans without drug coverage," many beneficiaries "were less protected against high drug costs than their counterparts in other plans."
The editorial adds, "The unfortunate consequence for patient health is that Medicare enrollees were much more likely to postpone medications because of the cost." The editorial states, "These shortcomings will need attention as the program rolls forward," and "any tendency to consider the job done is to be avoided" (New York Times, 9/3).