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What: A new study to be published in Health Affairs found that, following open enrollment in the new Medicare Part D prescription drug program, Medicare’s target to have 90 percent of people 65 and older covered by prescription drug insurance has been met, and concerns that large numbers of seniors would not enroll in the program have been largely allayed. The study, to be released August 1, 2006, was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The research team, led by Daniel L. McFadden, Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley, and a Nobel Laureate in Economics, interviewed Medicare-eligible people age 65 or older in November 2005, the week before Part D enrollment began. The same group was surveyed again between May 16 and June 2, 2006, immediately after open enrollment in the program ended May 15.
McFadden and co-authors report that, although the Medicare Part D program’s primary objective of providing most seniors affordable prescription drug coverage has largely been achieved, some groups of eligible seniors have tended not to enroll even though the authors calculate that it would be in their interest to enroll. Therefore, the authors note, a significant number of older people who might benefit from enrollment remain uncovered, and further educating these groups that the Part D program is in their self-interest should continue to be a health policy priority. A notable proportion of the seniors surveyed said they were less satisfied with Medicare and the government overall as a result of their experience with the program.
Why: Launched on January 1, 2006, the Medicare Part D program provides prescription drug coverage through competing Medicare-approved plans offered by private insurance companies and health maintenance organizations. The McFadden et al. study provides early results on the Part D enrollment patterns and seniors’ experience with program enrollment.
Spokespersons: Dr. Richard Suzman, director of NIA’s Behavioral and Social Research Program, is available to discuss the research. To schedule an interview, call the NIA Office of Communications and Public Liaison, 301-496-1752.
More Information: For information about the Medicare Part D prescription drug insurance program, visit www.medicare.gov .
The National Institute on Aging leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the medical, social and behavioral issues of older people. For more information on research and aging, go to www.nia.nih.gov .
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — the nation’s medical research agency — includes 27 institutes and centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov .