SEPTEMBER 01, 2006

Despite a rocky start earlier this year, the new Medicare Part D prescription drug program now appears to be receiving passing grades from seniors enrolled in the plan. A survey of Medicare beneficiaries by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that better than 8 in 10 individuals enrolled in a Part D prescription plan were satisfied with their particular plan.

A separate survey of >1500 seniors by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley reported that 58% of the respondents consider their new drug coverage to be a "major benefit."

Significantly, however, the researchers also found some serious problems with Part D. Nearly 20% of the respondents to the Kaiser survey reported encountering major problems with Part D, including being denied coverage improperly and not being able to obtain a covered prescription at their pharmacy.

Although the proportion of enrollees who reported saving money exceeded that of those who pay more under Part D by nearly 3 to 1, the ratio may change as more seniors temporarily lose Rx coverage because of the "doughnut hole," the coverage gap in which an individual must pay all drug costs after the total spent exceeds $2250 annually. Coverage resumes when Rx spending reaches $5100.