After an initial uproar over a proposed regulation that threatened preferred pharmacy plans for millions of Medicare beneficiaries, CMS excluded such "controversial" provisions from its 2016 Final Part C & D Rule. With this week's Part D Call Letter, CMS can finally close the book on a year in which millions of seniors feared their plans would be eliminated.
Also called the Medicare prescription drug benefit, is a United States federal-government program to subsidize the costs of prescription drugs and prescription drug insurance premiums for Medicare beneficiaries. It was enacted as part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 (which also made changes to the public Part C Medicare health plan program) and went into effect on January 1, 2006.
Medicare Part D plans are offered through private insurance companies that are contracted by Medicare, so costs and availability may differ between carriers and by location. Part D plans include stand-alone Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) and Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MAPD) plans.
"A few years ago lower cost preferred pharmacy plans were an innovation - today they comprise the very foundation of Medicare Part D. Over the past year, legislators and regulators have learned a lot about these popular plans and this week's CMS Part D Call Letter should assuage seniors who fear their plans might still be at risk," said PCMA President and CEO Mark Merritt.
A recent analysis of CMS Part D 2015 enrollment data by Drug Channels shows that 81 percent of seniors and disabled people chose lower-cost plans with preferred pharmacies that offer convenient access and extra discounts at certain pharmacies. According to the latest data, 15.4 million beneficiaries enrolled in prescription drug plans with preferred pharmacies.
Research and polling highlight the value of preferred pharmacies in Medicare:
Currently, most national Part D pharmacy networks include nearly all drugstores - almost 67,000 nationwide - giving beneficiaries access to more pharmacy locations than the combined number of McDonald's, Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, Wendy's, Taco Bells, Kentucky Fried Chickens, Domino's Pizzas, and Dunkin' Donuts across the country.
PCMA represents the nation's pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which improve affordability and quality of care through the use of electronic prescribing (e-prescribing), generic alternatives, mail-service pharmacies, and other innovative tools for 216 million Americans.
By 2008, nearly 90% of seniors had drug coverage at least as generous as the standard Part D benefit. Excluding premiums, annual out-of-pocket spending in the 10 largest Part D plans was comparable to that of other private and public drug benefits, with the most prominent differences attributable to out-of-pocket spending on drugs not covered in the plan. Poorer beneficiaries have gained the most from Part D in terms of increased access to medications and reduced out-of-pocket spending.