Prescription Drug Costs Among Top Concerns for Medicare Beneficiaries; More Than 20 Percent Report Skipping Doses or Postponing Medication Refills

Walgreens survey suggests confusion among 31.5 million enrolled in Part D plans, finds up to 50 percent are unaware of certain cost-saving opportunities

Business Wire

DEERFIELD, Ill.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--

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

The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports more than 31.5 million people were enrolled in Part D1, Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program, in 2012.

Despite most beneficiaries (77 percent) surveyed saying they have a clear understanding of their plan benefits, only half realize 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 percent don’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). And nearly 60 percent said if they could change one thing about their Part D plan, it would be lower costs and co-pays.

“It’s important for everyone to be able to afford the prescriptions they need, and with recent changes to Medicare and other programs under health care reform, it’s critical for beneficiaries to fully understand their options and ways to make their health care dollars go further,” said Dan Luce, director of pharmacy affairs, Walgreens. “If cost is a contributor to patients not adhering to medication therapies, as the survey findings show, it’s always a concern because non-adherence can be a significant and costly barrier in treating illness. This underscores the need to educate Part D beneficiaries about how they can save on prescription and other health care costs.”

The survey examined the behaviors and understanding of seniors currently enrolled in Medicare Part D, and is part of Walgreens You’re Worth Savings initiative, which aims to educate Medicare beneficiaries about cost saving opportunities and how to get the most from their prescription drug plan. In addition to the complexities of health care reform, an aging population and a higher incidence of chronic disease, there’s a growing need to help those with Part D plans understand their benefits while managing health care expenditures.

Using a preferred network pharmacy, if one is offered by the Part D plan, can potentially save beneficiaries hundreds of dollars each year on prescription co-pay costs. Yet, only 21 percent of respondents switched to a pharmacy within their plan’s preferred network as a way to save, and one-fourth (24 percent) are unaware of whether their plan offers a preferred pharmacy option.

Walgreens, which is in the network of hundreds of Medicare prescription drug plans and participates in the preferred networks of four national Part D sponsors, offers savings of up to 75 percent on prescription co-pays over select pharmacies for a number of plans in which it is a preferred pharmacy.

Other Findings

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

The survey also found:

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

There are three easy steps for Medicare Part D beneficiaries looking to save on prescription drug costs:

1. Review your Medicare Part D plan.

2. Talk to a Walgreens pharmacist about cost concerns and ways you might be able to save.

3. Compare co-pay and other costs against your current plan and pharmacy.

Learn More

You can schedule Medicare Part D plan review appointments and get further information at www.walgreens.com/medicare. Also visit www.medicare.gov to learn more about how to make the most of Medicare and your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

Methodological Summary

This survey was designed and conducted by KRC Research on behalf of Walgreens. Interviews were conducted by telephone between April 8 and April 15, 2013. In all, 1,000 U.S. Medicare Part D beneficiaries, age 65 and older, were interviewed. The data were weighted by demographics such as age, sex, geographic region, and race to ensure reliable and accurate representation of Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

About Walgreens

As the nation’s largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2012 sales of $72 billion, Walgreens (www.walgreens.com) vision is to become America’s first choice for health and daily living. Each day, Walgreens provides more than 6 million customers the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice in communities across America. Walgreens scope of pharmacy services includes retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility and mail service, along with respiratory services. These services improve health outcomes and lower costs for payers including employers, managed care organizations, health systems, pharmacy benefit managers and the public sector. The company operates 8,077 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Take Care Health Systems is a Walgreens subsidiary that is the largest and most comprehensive manager of worksite health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country.

1 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “2013 Medicare Part D Landscape,” September 19, 2012; http://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Prescription-Drug-Coverage/PrescriptionDrugCovGenIn/. Accessed April 22, 2013.

Contact:
Walgreens
Jim Cohn, 847-315-2950
or
Dana Metz, 312-988-2378
http://news.walgreens.com
@WalgreensNews
facebook.com/Walgreens

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