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Survey: Prescription Drug Costs Among Top Concerns for Medicare Beneficiaries

More than 20% report skipping doses or postponing refills (May 7)

More than one-third (37%) of Medicare Part D beneficiaries have daily concerns about their prescription drug costs, and 1 in 5 said they have had to make sacrifices, such as delaying filling a prescription or skipping doses, to help manage medication costs, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of Walgreens.

The survey examined the behaviors and understanding of seniors currently enrolled in Medicare Part D.

Despite most beneficiaries (77%) saying they had a clear understanding of their plan’s benefits, only half realized that co-pays for Part D prescriptions can vary by pharmacy; for instance, some plans feature preferred pharmacy networks that offer lower co-pays. Also, nearly 30% didn’t know that they can switch pharmacies at any time, believing falsely that it can only be done during Medicare’s annual election period (open enrollment). In addition, nearly 60% said that if they could change one thing about their Part D plan, it would be lower costs and co-pays.

The Medicare Part D beneficiaries surveyed took an average of eight prescriptions each week and spent an average of $58 per month on their co-pays, with nearly 2 in 10 (17%) paying more than $100. More than half (55%) of the seniors said that they would switch pharmacies if it meant savings on prescription drug costs.

The survey also found:

  • Most of the seniors were trying to lower prescription costs. Seven in 10 (72%) had switched to generic medications, and 4 in 10 (44%) were filling more 90-day prescriptions in an effort to save.
  • Only 15% of those surveyed were able to identify correctly the major components of national Part D prescription plans.
  • Only hospital/emergency room costs (40%) and caregiver/assisted living expenses (38%) were greater concerns for respondents than prescription drug costs (37%).

The survey was designed and conducted by KRC Research on behalf of Walgreens. The interviews were conducted by telephone between April 8 and April 15, 2013. A total of 1,000 U.S. Medicare Part D beneficiaries, aged 65 years and older, were interviewed.

Source: Walgreens; May 7, 2013.

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