Savings From Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Cards Will Vary Greatly, Observers Say
The average savings that Medicare beneficiaries will receive from a prescription drug discount card program scheduled to begin this week will "depend on each Medicare beneficiary's needs and the card they choose," according to a study scheduled for publication in Health Affairs, the Boston Herald reports (Heldt Powell, Boston Herald, 4/14). Under the new Medicare law, beneficiaries who do not have prescription drug coverage through Medicaid can participate in the discount card program. Federal officials estimate that the discount cards could save beneficiaries about 10% to 25% on prescription drug costs until the new prescription drug benefit takes effect in 2006. Companies that offer the discount cards can charge an annual enrollment fee of as much as $30 and likely will offer savings on at least one medication in each of 209 classes of treatments commonly used by Medicare beneficiaries. HHS last month approved 28 private companies to offer 49 different discount cards to Medicare beneficiaries (California Healthline, 4/1). Juliette Cubanski, lead author of the study and a graduate student at Harvard University, based the results on a review of current discount cards available. The study found that Medicare beneficiaries who currently spend $672 per year on prescription drugs will save about $117 per year, a savings of about 141% for generic medications and 14% on common brand-name treatments. However, Cubanski said that the amount saved will "vary greatly" based of which discount card Medicare beneficiaries select. She added, "The key will be how well beneficiaries do at analyzing their own potential savings" when they select discount cards. However, Cubanski said, "Those who now lack prescription drug coverage will see some relief but still face sizable out-of-pocket costs. Moreover, discount card savings will not completely alleviate the burden of drug spending for heavy users of medication" (Boston Herald, 4/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.