Medicare drug card savings growing, new data show

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Seniors are now saving more money with the new Medicare-approved drug discount cards, the nation’s top Medicare official announced today at a forum held by the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. That report drew praise from the committee’s chairman.

“It's no secret there's been some skeptical chatter about this program – but the facts, I am pleased to say, speak louder than words,” said Chairman Larry Craig (R-Idaho). “The new drug cards, while not a magic bullet, are already showing real and substantial downward pressure on prices. Today's drug card program is just a beginning – a stepping stone, if you will – toward implementation of the full prescription drug benefit.”

Medicare Administrator Mark McClellan [statement] said that his agency’s latest research has found that seniors could save 12 to 21 percent now compared to the prices others would pay without the Medicare-approved cards. This compares to an average of 11 to 18 percent savings found in surveys taken two months ago.

For low-income seniors, who qualify for an additional $600 in assistance from the federal government, Medicare reported that seniors can save between 44 and 92 percent over average retail pharmacy prices.

“By any measure that’s a terrific deal,” Craig said.

“It's exciting to note that all of the research has consistently shown great savings for beneficiaries,” Dr. McClellan said. “No matter which methodology or mix of drugs is used - brand versus generic, baskets versus individual drugs, weighted by volume sales or not - all methodologies yield very similar findings. These price reductions are on the drugs that beneficiaries use commonly, including many drugs not included in the formularies of government-run drug plans.”

The new Medicare analysis confirms recent research by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, the Lewin Group, the American Enterprise Institute, the Healthcare Leadership Council, and Health Policy Alternatives, whose research was also discussed at the forum.

The new government study found that seniors with the Medicare discount cards who currently buy generic drugs can obtain savings between 45 to 75 percent below typical prices paid by others who purchase generic medications. Beneficiaries currently using brand name drugs who are able to switch to generics can save even more.

For 10 commonly used drugs researchers examined, the best Medicare-approved drug discount card offered prices at least 5 to 33 percent lower compared to Drugstore.com and 11 to 34 percent lower compared to Costco.com. The research also found that the Medicare-approved cards with the best retail prices even beat Internet mail order prices most of the time.

http://aging.senate.gov/

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