USA Today Examines Study on Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Card Program
USA Today on Friday examined the results of a Kaiser Family Foundation study published this week that found that the new Medicare prescription drug discount cards can provide significant savings over retail prices for medicines, although the "excessive" number of cards available is confusing to seniors. The report, prepared for the foundation by Health Policy Alternatives, is "important because it is an independent look" at the new drug card program, which has "faced critical reaction" from some who say the savings are small and the enrollment process is confusing, USA Today reports. Some patient advocates have said that as a result of these criticisms, interest in the program seems to be waning among Medicare beneficiaries (Appleby, USA Today, 7/30).
For the report, researchers compared the prices for seven Medicare drug discount cards available in Baltimore and a rural Maryland community with retail prices listed by the Maryland attorney general's "Prescription Drug Price Finder" and prices through mail-order services run for the public by Costco and Drugstore.com. The report examined prices available between May 10 and June 28, but researchers dropped the first two weeks of the study period because of doubts about data reliability.
According to the report, the Medicare cards offered prices 19% to 24% lower than retail in Baltimore and 17% to 22% lower than retail in the rural community. In addition, the report noted that prices in general were 27% to 32% lower than retail cost in Baltimore for medications purchased through mail order. According to the report, six of the seven studied Medicare drug cards had prices lower than Costco's mail-order program, while prices offered by Drugstore.com were competitive with those offered through the Medicare discount program. The report also said that the large number of cards available to beneficiaries produces confusion and could discourage enrollment (California Healthline, 7/29). The study is available online.