Enrollment in Medicare Drug Coverage Tops 39 Million, CMS Says
More than 39 million Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans, CMS officials announced Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press reports. According to CMS, 1.6 million beneficiaries have signed up for a Medicare plan since June 2006 (Anstett, Detroit Free Press, 1/31).
CMS Director Leslie Norwalk said since June 2006, enrollment for dual eligible beneficiaries, who qualify for Medicare and Medicaid but receive drug coverage under the Medicare benefit, increased from 6.02 million to 6.27 million; enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans with drug coverage increased from 6.04 million to 6.65 million; and enrollment in stand-alone plans increased from 10.37 million to 10.98 million beneficiaries (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 1/30).
CMS officials said that retirees receiving prescription drug coverage through former employers and the military declined by 1% (Wolfe, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 1/30). According to CMS, the average monthly price of premiums under the drug plans declined by $1 to $22 per month, compared to last year -- 42% lower than original estimates (USA Today, 1/31).
Beneficiaries on average are saving $1,200 annually, CMS said. According to a CMS survey, about 75% of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a drug plan reported satisfaction with the benefit, and 6% of beneficiaries switched plans, primarily for greater coverage during the so-called "doughnut hole" coverage gap.
Norwalk said the fact that 85% of beneficiaries were aware of the open enrollment period or switched plans demonstrates that they are "smart shoppers and informed consumers" (Detroit Free Press, 1/31). Norwalk added, "Among the 600 seniors surveyed, 34% reported comparing plans, and over half of these seniors evaluated premium, deductible or [copayments], and coverage -- that is, their comparisons appeared to be thorough" (CMS release, 1/30).
Norwalk also said that 350,000 of the 900,000 people who enrolled in a Medicare drug plan last fall did so through the Medicare Web site, www.medicare.gov (Detroit Free Press, 1/31).