Part D: A Health Care Success Story

It’s no secret that Medicare Part D is a success. Thanks to Part D, seniors and disabled Americans have more choices and increased access to the medicines they need to live longer, healthier lives. And it’s overwhelmingly popular with its participants: Nearly 90 percent of seniors are satisfied with their coverage and 80 percent believe their plan provides good value.

What’s so different about Medicare Part D? How can its success be applied to other programs? We recently supported a gathering of policymakers and health care thought leaders, “The Future of Medicare Part D: Innovation & Lessons Learned,” to explore these questions further 

Mike Mason, U.S. Vice President of Lilly Diabetes, and other expert panel members said the program owes its success to a delicate balance of competition, value, and innovation – characteristics of the private sector. Competition is fostered through health plans contending each year for beneficiaries and contracts.


Value is gained through customizable patient engagement and experience programs, as explained by UnitedHealthcare’s Chief Pharmacy Officer Mike Anderson. Innovation is driven by incentivizing new benefit plans and customer support, as well as the development of new treatments and cures for seniors – which help prevent hospitalizations and chronic disease complications.

Mason offered additional compelling perspective about the program’s impact: Since Part D pioneered Medicare prescription drug coverage for seniors, there has been a greater focus on developing medicines for seniors, such as Lilly’s significant investment in Alzheimer’s disease.

But how might these success factors be leveraged in other health care programs? Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former Director of the Congressional Budget Office and president of the American Action Forum, noted that Part D’s underlying private-sector principles could be applied to other populations to curb costs, increase beneficiary and industry participation, and improve consumer experience.



Former U.S. Sen. Blanche L. Lincoln (D-Ark.) also noted that a key strength comes from Part D’s bipartisan and flexible foundation, suggesting that future health programs should be driven by solutions, not a one-sided, “winner takes all” approach.

Whether Republican, Democrat, insurer, or biopharmaceutical company, the panelists and event participants agreed: Medicare Part D is a program designed unlike any other that demonstrates the potential for continued innovation and public-private collaboration to improve health, control costs, and save lives.