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Kaiser Issues New Medicare Part D Analyses and Resources

From Kaiser Family Foundation email update, Monday, December 10, 2007
CONTACTS: Craig Palosky, 202-347-5270,

                   Kirran Syed, 202-347-5270,


With the 2008 open enrollment period for Medicare Part D plans underway, and with more than 24 million people on Medicare now enrolled in a Medicare drug plan, the Kaiser Family Foundation has issued two new Medicare Part D Data Spotlights that examine benefit design and cost sharing, and the use of specialty tiers for high-cost drugs in 2008. This series also includes previously released spotlights that focus on Medicare drug plan premiums and gap coverage, based on analysis of the 47 unique, stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plans available nationwide in 2008. Key findings from the new spotlights include:

  • Nearly half of the national Medicare drug plans have increased the amount enrollees pay for brand-name drugs. Since 2006, average cost sharing for a 30-day supply of “non-preferred” brand-name drugs increased by 29 percent, from $55.36 to $71.31, while average cost sharing for “preferred” brand drugs increased by 11 percent, from $26.87 to $29.86. Cost sharing for generic drugs has remained fairly stable since 2006.

  • Specialty tiers are commonly used by stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plans for relatively expensive drugs (at least $600 per month), and plans are able to charge more for specialty-tier drugs than they typically do for preferred or non-preferred drugs. For 2008, 41 of the 47 nationally available Medicare drug plans place some drugs on a specialty tier – about twice the number of plans that had a specialty tier in 2006.

The Foundation has also issued the fourth and final report in a series based on one-on-one interviews with 35 Medicare beneficiaries since the Medicare drug benefit’s implementation in 2006. This latest report, “Voices of Beneficiaries: Attitudes Toward Medicare Part D Open Enrollment for 2008,” focuses primarily on the recent experiences of Part D enrollees, and finds that most enrollees do not intend to reexamine their drug coverage options for the coming year or switch to a different Part D plan. Some are content to stay with their current plan, based on their experience so far, while others say they do not want to revisit the time-consuming process of comparing and choosing from among the multitude of plans available.

The Foundation has also updated “Talking About Medicare,” its online consumer guide designed to help people with Medicare coverage, and their families, understand their options and make decisions regarding Medicare coverage. The guide includes detailed information about Medicare’s drug benefit, as well as Medicare’s other covered benefits, supplemental insurance options, and the Medicare Advantage program, and includes a state-by-state list of resources for additional information.

The Part D open enrollment period for 2008 runs from November 15 through December 31, 2007. During this period, beneficiaries have the opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Part D plan to get drug coverage or make changes to their existing plan for 2008. The Foundation has a number of additional Part D resources available online.


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