Prescription Drug Coverage Before and After Medicare Part D

Medicare Part D has helped millions of older and disabled Americans gain access to medicines. Today, we're taking a look at what prescription drug coverage was like before Part D was implemented in 2006, showing just how much of a difference Part D has made in the lives of patients.

About 31 million seniors are currently enrolled in Medicare Part D, and 9 out of 10 beneficiaries say they're satisfied with their coverage. That makes sense: prior to Part D, seniors who didn't have drug coverage had to pay retail prices for their medications. After Part D, those new beneficiaries reduced their out-of-pocket drug costs by $31 a month on average, while being able to fill more prescriptions than before.

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Being able to afford the prescriptions they need helps Medicare beneficiaries stay healthier, and lowers costs for other medical services such as hospitalizations. For example, during the first full year of its implementation, Part D covered over 494,000 New Yorkers who had previously had no drug coverage, helping them to avoid over 3,450 hospitalizations and saving Medicare over $600 million. On the West Coast, we saw a similar result: Part D contributed to over 6,000 avoided hospitalizations for over 860,000 Californians, saving Medicare over $1 billion.

There's another group of Medicare beneficiaries for whom Part D is making a big difference: dual eligibles, those individuals who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid (the program subsidizing health care for people with a limited income). Check back next week for an in-depth look at how Part D has benefited dual eligible patients.