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Early Study Finds Medicare Drug Cards Delivering Some Savings

  • August 2nd, 2004

The Medicare drug discount cards can deliver savings off of full retail drug prices, but savings for individual beneficiaries can vary significantly across card programs, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The study was conducted in May and June 2004, the first two months of the program. Employing a market basket of ten commonly used drugs, the study compared the discounts available from seven Medicare drug cards available in Maryland with retail prices listed by the Maryland attorney general's "Prescription Drug Price Finder" and with prices available through mail-order services run by Costco and Drugstore.com.

The study found that the Medicare cards offered prices ranging from 17 percent to 24 percent lower than retail, and the report also noted that consumers could often reap even bigger discounts by using their cards when ordering by mail. There were significant differences in savings between cards. But the study also found that beneficiaries could do just as well by buying their drugs from Drugstore.com.

The researchers also found that despite beneficiary advocates' concerns that card sponsors would raise prices once enrollees were "locked in" to their cards, overall prices have remained stable. But the report noted that the large number of cards available to beneficiaries '“ 39 national and 33 regional cards -- produces confusion and could discourage enrollment. So far, only about 4 million beneficiaries have enrolled, with 2.3 million of these automatically enrolled by their managed care provider. The total of enrollee total is still far short of the 7.3 million enrollees anticipated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The Kaiser Foundation report is available at http://www.kff.org/medicare/med072804pkg.cfm

For more on the discount card program, click here.

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Last Modified: 08/02/2004

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