Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Progress Report: Findings From A 2006 National Survey of Seniors

The share of seniors without drug coverage dropped significantly under Medicare’s new drug benefit, according to this August 2007 Health Affairs Web Exclusive article based on a Kaiser Family Foundation, Commonwealth Fund and Tufts-New England Medical Center survey of more than 16,000 seniors.

Seniors with drug coverage from any source were less likely to face high monthly drug costs or to skip prescribed medications due to cost than seniors who remained without drug coverage. However, seniors who enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan did not fare as well as those who relied on other sources of drug coverage, such as employer-sponsored coverage or benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The random-sample survey of more than 16,000 seniors nationally provides an in-depth look at how the Medicare drug benefit affected seniors. Conducted in fall 2006 by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund and the Tufts-New England Medical Center, the survey provides a comprehensive look at seniors’ out-of-pocket spending and cost-related experiences, broken out by type of drug coverage, with a more in-depth look at the experiences of seniors with low incomes.

The study also highlights the significant financial protections that the drug benefit’s low-income subsidies provided to those who received them. But among low-income seniors not receiving those subsidies, nearly one in three reported that they spent at least $100 per month for their prescriptions—and there are an estimated 3.4 million to 4.7 million beneficiaries who are eligible for low-income subsidies but not receiving that extra help. Many low-income seniors who were not receiving low-income subsidies said they were unaware of such assistance.

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Heath Affairs Web Exclusive:

Interview with study author and Kaiser vice president Tricia Neuman

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Key Charts from the Survey


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