In the months and years ahead, the future of Medicare will be heavily debated as lawmakers search for ways to curtail entitlement spending. Finding solutions will not be easy, but lawmakers from both parties recognize that strengthening Medicare is essential to preserving benefits for today’s seniors and future generations.
But in order to strengthen Medicare, lawmakers must protect components of the program that are already working to improve the lives of the American people, like Medicare Part D.
Created in 2006, Part D provides prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. The program features a competitive, market-based structure that creates competition between private insurers for seniors’ business. The program’s unique structure has helped drive down overall expenses, resulting in negotiated discounts on medicines and low monthly premiums for enrollees.
In fact, costs for seniors are well below initial forecasts. According to Medicare’s trustees, the average monthly premium for a Part D prescription drug plan is just $30 — significantly less than original estimates.
In addition, Part D has allowed seniors to choose from a wide variety of private insurance plans to find the plan that works best for them. While the number of plans offered varies by state, Maryland enrollees can choose from 31 different plans, some with monthly premiums as low as $14.80.
Studies indicate that the wide variety of low-cost Part D coverage options has led to a 12.8 percent increase in the number of enrollees obtaining the prescription drugs they need, while reducing out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs by 15.6 percent.
This is great news. Lowering costs while increasing access to prescription drugs will lead to healthier lives and improved outcomes for our seniors.
I have seen the benefits of Part D firsthand as the director of patient services for the Lupus Foundation of America’s DC/MD/VA Chapter. Many of the individuals I work with rely on prescription drugs to manage the symptoms of this devastating autoimmune disease. For those enrolled in Medicare, Part D has played an essential role providing necessary medicines at an affordable price.
Part D has become an essential program for America’s seniors. Our lawmakers must protect it.
Jessica Gilbart, Washington D.C.
Jessica Gilbart is the director of patient services for the Lupus Foundation of America, DC/MD/VA Chapter.