Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Just 2 years ago, older Americans were the least likelysegment of the population to be covered by druginsurance, and the most likely group to pay for prescriptionmedicines out of pocket. Thanks to theMedicare Part D drug program, such is no longer thecase, health experts have told Congress.

Of the >43 million Medicare beneficiaries who areeligible for Part D, >39 million now have some form ofcreditable prescription-drug coverage, said governmentofficials. The number includes 24 million enrolledin Part D stand-alone plans or Medicare Advantage plans with drug coverage.Another 7 million retirees are enrolled in employer-or union-sponsored programsthat receive the Retiree Drug Subsidy; 3 million others are in federal retiree programssuch as TRICARE; and 5 million more are receiving drug coverage from alternativesources such as the Veterans Administration.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are crediting Part D forsignificantly closing the drug-coverage gap for seniors. Others, however, look at thesame numbers and conclude that the glass is half empty.

Even though 9 of every 10 seniors now have prescription-drug benefits, representativesfrom the US National Council on Aging told Congress that as many as 4.4 millioneligible people still have not enrolled for a subsidy under Medicare's prescriptiondrugplan. Separate figures released by the Senate identified 2.9 million people whohave not enrolled in Part D and currently have no prescription-drug coverage.