FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Reid Porter 202.336.7965
April 3, 2006
Medicare Rx Education Network

PRESS RELEASE

SURVEY ASSESSES NEW MEDICARE DRUG PROGRAM
Most seniors satisfied with their Medicare prescription drug coverage

Washington D.C. — Four out of five seniors who have voluntarily signed up for the Medicare prescription drug program are satisfied with their coverage, according to a new survey commissioned by the Medicare Rx Education Network and conducted by KRC Research. A majority of these seniors report feeling better off than they were before and that they are saving money.

The nationally representative telephone survey of 896 seniors 65 and older enrolled in Medicare was conducted March 15-20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.27 percentage points.

The survey found that 87 percent of those who voluntarily enrolled in a stand-alone plan reported that the new prescription drug benefit worked well. It also noted that 77 percent of them reported peace of mind knowing that they have prescription drug coverage.

“The survey shows that seniors who have enrolled are finding the benefit worth the time and effort that it takes to check out the plans and sign up. The survey assessed seniors’ reactions to the benefit to date so that the Medicare Rx Education Network can fine tune its education efforts over the next six weeks,” says former U.S. Senator John Breaux, honorary chairman of the Medicare Rx Education Network.”

Results indicate that enrollees have multiple reasons for signing up for the benefit, all of which they consider important. These reasons include having the medicines they need when they need them (93 percent); being able to afford their medicine (91 percent); paying less for their prescription drugs starting now (87 percent); and having long-term insurance in case their prescription drug expenses go up (84 percent).

The majority (58 percent) of those enrolled in stand-alone plans said it was not difficult to sign up for a plan.   One in three seniors (38 percent) said it was difficult. When asked what they would tell others who are thinking of enrolling, four in five (82 percent) said they would advise others to do the math and see what plan is best; 80 percent said they would advise researching which medicines are covered by the plans, and 82 percent said they would advise getting help from someone in choosing a plan.

“These results indicate that beneficiaries need one-on-one counseling to help them identify a plan. Seniors need to bring to the counseling session a list of their medicines, the dosage and frequency, and current cost so that counselors can  find plans that cover the senior’s medicines and provide savings,” says Dr. Larry Fields, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, a member of the Medicare Rx Education Network.

Survey author Mark David Richards of KRC Research says that the survey shows that while some beneficiaries are encountering difficulties in signing up, they find the benefit works well and is worth the time and effort once they are enrolled. Nearly nine in 10 who received medicines through their new benefit said it worked well for them. Sixty-seven percent said that, overall, they are better off now than they were before, and 59 percent reported that they have lowered the amount of money they spend on medications.

Most (59 percent) of those surveyed who had not yet enrolled said that choosing a plan is difficult, and about half (47 percent) of those actively looking said they did not have enough information to make up their mind.

These same seniors who have yet to enroll said the top four places or persons they have gone for information or assistance are their pharmacist (67 percent), their doctor (58 percent), the Medicare & You handbook (72 percent), and friends and acquaintances (64 percent). State health insurance assistance programs and the Medicare toll-free number ranked further down the list — 49 percent and 44 percent respectively — despite the availability of personal counseling at both these resources.

Based on the findings, the Medicare Rx Education Network plans over the next six weeks (through the end of open enrollment on May 15) to:

  • Step up Network efforts to get seniors the one-on-one help they need with sorting out the benefit by connecting them with counselors who can identify plans that cover their medicines, are affordable and provide savings. To date, the Network has held over 2,650 events around the country, many of which have had one-on-one counseling. The Network plans to increase awareness of, and attendance at, the over 500 upcoming events to be held between now and May 15;
  • Drive people to underutilized resources, including the Medicare toll-free number (1-800-MEDICARE, or 1-800-633-4227), state health insurance assistance programs, and local senior advocacy groups and community groups that provide one-on-one counseling; and
  • Increase educational efforts to explain the insurance nature of the Medicare benefit, which assures beneficiaries – including those presently healthy and taking few or no medications – coverage for prescription drugs should their medical condition change and prescription drug-needs increase.

Medicare Rx Education Network Survey of Seniors will be available 12:30 p.m., Monday, April 3, 2006, at www.medicarerxeducation.org , the Medicare Rx Education Network’s Web site.

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The Medicare Rx Education Network provides information and assistance with outreach and enrollment for the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit. The network, which includes 70 national organizations, is chaired by former U.S. Senator John Breaux. Members share an interest in educating Medicare beneficiaries about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit and will work closely with the appropriate federal agencies to obtain up-to-date information to ensure that information disseminated by the network about Medicare Part D is factual and accurately conveyed, thereby pre-empting confusion about the benefit and equipping beneficiaries and their caregivers to make informed choices. By sharing information with each other about member organizations’ independent efforts, collaborating on activities, and identifying ways to work together, the network aims to eliminate duplication of efforts and maximize the effectiveness of outreach efforts. The network does not engage in legislative activities or take positions on pending legislative or administrative policies related to the Part D benefit and its implementation.

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