-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDay News) -- For Medicare participants,
choosing the right prescription drug plan is confusing and often
leads to seniors paying hundreds of dollars more a year than they
need to, a new study finds.
In an analysis of 2009 data from more than 412,000 Medicare
beneficiaries, average age 75, researchers found that only 5.2
percent of the seniors chose the least expensive Medicare
prescription drug benefit (Part D) plan that satisfied their
medical needs. They overspent on Part D premiums and prescription
drugs by an average of $368 a year.
The older the beneficiaries, the more likely they were to choose
more expensive plans; for example, those over 85 overspent by $30
more than people aged 65 to 69. White people also tended to choose
more expensive plans than blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans,
the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
Among those who were more likely to choose a less-expensive plan
were seniors with common medical conditions, including diabetes and
chronic heart failure. In addition, people with mental health
disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, spent an average of $10
less than those without such conditions, according to the report
published in the October issue of the journal
And having more options did not seem to help seniors choose the
best plan for their needs. As the number of plans available in a
region increased, the amount of overspending increased by $3.20 for
each additional plan available, the study authors found.
"People need assistance in choosing the least expensive plan for their medical needs," lead author Chao Zhou, a post-doctoral associate at Pitt Public Health, said in a university news release. "Educational programs that help people navigate the dozens of plans available would make it easier to select plans that best meet their health care needs without overspending," Zhou added.
And study co-author Yuting Zhang, an associate professor of
health economics at Pitt Public Health, suggested that the
government could do more to help seniors. "In particular,
government officials could recommend the three most appropriate
Part D plans for each person, based on their medication history,"
Zhang said in the news release. "Alternatively, they could assign
beneficiaries to the best plan for them based on their medication
needs, while offering them the option to choose another plan
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has more
Medicare prescription drug coverage.
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