News and Commentary

Patient Advocates Want Part D Changes

A Medicare-administered drug benefit would be more affordable and comprehensive than the current private insurance-run drug benefit, says the Consumers Union and the Medicare Rights Center. The patient advocate groups contend that older adults and persons with disabilities should have the option of choosing prescription drug coverage through the original Medicare program.

"Private insurance companies aren't getting the best deals for consumers on prescription drugs," says Bill Vaughan, senior policy analyst at Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. "Let's let Medicare — which Americans know, trust, and count on for their health coverage — offer prescription drug coverage, too."

In the report, "The Best Medicine: A Drug Coverage Option Under Original Medicare," the two groups find that the current Medicare drug benefit that is available through private plans is unnecessarily costly, has coverage gaps, is unstable, and leaves consumers vulnerable to marketing fraud because of the large number of plans offering dissimilar benefit packages.

The consumer groups assert that a Medicare-administered drug benefit can lower drug prices and reduce the overall cost of the Medicare coverage program by harnessing the purchasing power of the 43 million Americans with Medicare to negotiate prices. It costs private insurers 9.8 percent of the drug benefit's total cost to administer the program, yet the authors say that it costs Medicare only 1.7 percent of the total costs to administer hospital and outpatient coverage.

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