Medicare patients choosing low-cost prescription drug plans

By BenefitsPro

By Kathryn Mayer

Medicare patients overwhelmingly choose low-cost plans to meet their health needs, according to a new report.

Consulting firm Avalere Health reported that nearly 3 million beneficiaries are choosing low-premium plans with preferred pharmacy networks.

Analysts also said the Medicare Part D market is growing rapidly and has become quite competitive, which has kept the costs of the program under control. Premiums are also very stable, they say, increasingly slightly by about 2 percent on average.

“The shift of enrollees to low-cost plans validates that market competition works as enrollees are rewarding sponsors with innovative packages that offer an attractive monthly premium,” Avalere senior vice president Bonnie Washington said in a statement. “However, beneficiaries using expensive Part D products may face greater cost-sharing under these plans, making pharmacy selection critical.”

Medicare Part D enrollment grew by 12 percent from 2012 to 2013.

The analysis noted that low-cost options, such as the new AARP Saver Plus and Humana/ Walmart and First Health Part D Value Plus plans, have seen spikes in enrollment.

The low-cost PDPs generally employ preferred pharmacy networks to better manage costs and enrollee drug spending. Under this benefit design, plans typically charge higher enrollee cost sharing at non-preferred pharmacies.

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