Health Team

Study: Medicare Rx Plan Not Helping Those Who Need It

Posted April 22, 2008

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— The Medicare Part D program was meant to make prescription medications more affordable, but a new study shows that it may not be helping those who need it the most.

Larry Brewer, 67, has several chronic illnesses, including a heart condition, depression and high blood pressure. In July, he said, his Medicare Part D benefits run out.

“At that point, I start really cutting back on my prescriptions. There’s some I won’t even take,” Brewer said.

When Medicare Part D started two years ago, it was meant to make drugs more affordable – especially for the poor and chronically ill.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School analyzed data from annual Medicare surveys from 2004 through 2006, the year Part D began. They found a small decrease in the tendency of beneficiaries to back on essential needs in order to afford prescriptions.

“Across all groups that we saw that rate go down about 40 percent compared to what it had been before Part D began,” said Jeanne Madden, a Ph.D. in Harvard Medical School's Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention.

The researchers added, however, that there wasn't much change in medicine-skipping among the sickest people.

Skipping medications is still a problem for others like Brewer.

“We found that the sickest beneficiaries actually showed no improvement after Part D began on the measure of pill-skipping due to high costs,” Madden said.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers said high co-payments and the loss of benefits after the first $2,250 make it tougher for recipients.

When Brewer’s benefits dry up, he said, he pays about $700 a month.

“Just think. If I was taking all my prescriptions the way I was supposed to, it would chew up most of my Social Security,” Brewer said.

Brewer said Medicare helps to some extent, but this summer he'll be in the same difficult situation.

Researchers said about 10 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, including about 3 million low-income individuals, still have no prescription drug coverage.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • ridgerunner Apr 24, 2008

    The drug lobby dictated the plan to the committee and prohibited negotiation. Then the chairman of the congressional committee that agreed with this mess went to work in the drug industry making millions. And you wonder why the system does not work? My wife takes a medication that cost about $1900. for a three month supply, insurance will only pay for one 5mg pill a day, she takes one in the morning and one in the evening, but they will pay for four 10mg a day. Guess what our Doctor prescribes for her. Helps me out a lot cause I bought a pill cutter.

  • GWALLY Apr 24, 2008

    You are on the money Harrison...!!!

  • Sandollar Apr 24, 2008

    Harrison Bergeron, you are one compasionate person.

  • Harrison Bergeron Apr 24, 2008

    Hey Larry, you know what would help with those "chronic illnesses?" A little diet and exercise. I really get tired of people griping about the cost of their medications for diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, when putting down the cupcakes, shutting off the TV and taking a walk (ALL FREE, by the way) would go along way toward curing them.

  • ladyblue Apr 24, 2008

    I think being as I use it that it is the best thing that ever happened to the poor. It saved my life...........

  • ladyblue Apr 24, 2008

    MEDICARE plan is a rip off/ pts need to contact the Drug Company and they will help with the cost. A lot of them just charge 15.00 no matter the cost of medicine. Several of these are meds free. I have just help a friend get her 300.00 medicine for free. So anyone you can afford the meds please ask the drug store who makes it and call the company. I hope this information helps someone who cannot afford their meds.

    You cannot get this plan if you have any other drug coverage at all.

  • ladyblue Apr 24, 2008

    We found that the sickest beneficiaries actually showed no improvement after Part D began on the measure of pill-skipping due to high costs,” Madden said

    Ever thought of if they didn't skip the pills they'd not be the sickest. Mercy.........

  • Adelinthe Apr 24, 2008

    "Study: Medicare Rx Plan Not Helping Those Who Need It"

    I will never understand why Medicare doesn't dispense drugs the way the VA does. The VA buys drugs by the truckloads at reduced prices because of volume ordered. That's why they can dispense them to veterans for as little as $7 for each RX.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Caring Apr 24, 2008


  • 8softballmom Apr 23, 2008

    Most drug companies will NOT assist with free medications IF the beneficiary is eligible for Medicare- but there are exceptions to this. Extra assistance is available from social security-based on income. Please contact your local senior center,social security office or the state SHIIP office at 1-800-443-9354 for more information.