Medicare Part D currently provides over 35 million older Americans improved access to their prescription medications. Yesterday, the Senate Special Committee on Aging brought together policy experts to discuss Medicare Part D’s performance in the decade since it became law. Reflecting back on the last 10 years, it becomes clear that Part D works. Medicare Part D provides beneficiaries with quality, cost-effective care and helps to improve the sustainability of the entire health care system.
Ranking Member Susan M. Collins noted that the Part D program is “extremely popular and working very well.” According to recent surveys, an astonishing 94% of Part D enrollees say they are satisfied with their coverage, and 95% feel confident that their coverage meets their needs. However, Senator Collins cited concerns that a lack of education and awareness of Part D may lead older Americans to choose plans that do not best suit their lifestyles. As Senator Collins emphasized, providing more targeted assistance can help ensure that beneficiaries choose plans that best meet their financial and health needs.
Greater choice for beneficiaries choosing their Rx drug plans helps ensure that competition will keep prices low and quality of care high. It is this free market balance that has made Part D an effective program over the last decade. Speaking before the committee, Research Professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, Jack Hoadley, PhD outlined four successes of Medicare Part D:
- The cost of Part D has been lower than expectations
- Part D has reduced costs and increased access for enrollees
- The Part D coverage gap is being fixed
- Despite initial concerns, the program’s launch went smoothly
Medicare Part D has proven time and again that health policy can provide quality care and be fiscally sound. Yet despite these successes, proposals continue to threaten the balance of choice, competition, and free market principles that make this policy viable. As Executive Vice President for Policy and Research at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Richard Smith emphasized, “There is no justification for imposing price controls on a Part D program that has achieved a strong record of cost containment, beneficiary satisfaction, and improved health outcomes.” As the months lead up to Medicare Part D’s 10 year anniversary, we look forward to more discussion about how we protect this model program that work for patients. As Chairman Bill Nelson said at yesterday’s hearing, “We can work together to ensure that no senior ever has to leave the pharmacy without the drugs they need.”