News and Commentary

Drug Benefit Called Vital In Medicare DM

What Medicare needs to remain vital as baby boomers age is a healthy dose of disease management, a House Ways and Means subcommittee was told recently. "Medicare must learn how to better help the increasing number of seniors with chronic illnesses stay out of the hospital and maintain the best possible health and quality of life," Jeff Lemieux, of the Progressive Policy Institute, told the subcommittee on Feb. 25.

A report delivered Jan. 31 by another panel, this one convened by the National Academy of Social Insurance, says that the best way to do that is by adding prescription drugs to the Medicare benefits package. The NASI panel called such a move "the single most important addition for management of chronic conditions."

Providing acute care was the name of the game in medicine when Medicare was instituted in the 1960s. The focus has since changed to chronic care, for which Medicare seems unprepared, the NASI report contends.

Health Care Policy Report says that chronic conditions are common among Medicare enrollees, with 87 percent having at least one such condition and 65 percent having multiple chronic conditions.

Chronic conditions account for 20 percent of the Medicare population, but 66 percent of the Medicare program's spending, according to the NASI study.


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