Kaiser Health Poll Report Survey: Seniors’ Early Experiences with the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit

Kaiser Health Poll Report Survey: Seniors’ Early Experiences with the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit

This April 2006 tracking poll finds that most seniors enrolled in a Medicare drug plan are satisfied with their plan and are not having trouble getting the drugs they need. Most seniors enrolled in plans reported filling at least one prescription, and the vast majority of them — more than 8 in 10 — reported no problems getting their prescriptions filled. But still, nearly 2 in 10 did report a problem getting their drugs. Future surveys will probe in greater depth the nature of the problems seniors experience filling their prescriptions.

Medicare beneficiaries must sign up for the drug benefit by May 15 or pay higher premiums if they enroll in the future, unless they previously had what the government calls “creditable” coverage. Whether or not to roll back the deadline to give beneficiaries more time to make a decision or waive the penalty are hotly debated health policy issues in Washington. Among the seniors who may still enroll — those either unsure of whether they’re going to enroll or say they will sign up but haven’t done so yet — about half don’t know about the deadline or the penalty for late enrollment.

The nationally representative tracking poll — the 12th in a series that comprises three large surveys and nine smaller tracking polls — was conducted among 517 seniors from April 6 to April 11 (with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus five percentage points). The survey also captures seniors’ overall attitudes toward the drug benefit, their knowledge about it and their reasons for enrolling or not enrolling in a plan. In general, seniors’ views about the law remain more unfavorable than favorable despite the positive early experiences of enrollees. This may be due in part to widely reported early implementation problems (many seniors told us that their impressions of the benefit were mainly based on reports in the media).

In addition, a separate companion report summarizes in-depth interviews with beneficiaries in four cities about their experiences with the drug law. The report, “Voices of Beneficiaries: Early Experiences with the Medicare Drug Benefit,” provides quotes and personal stories that amplify the statistical picture of beneficiary experiences provided in the survey.



icon_reports_studies.gifVoices of Beneficiaries: Early Experiences with the Medicare Drug Benefit

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