Seniors' Choice on Medicare Part D Often Not Cost-Based

Provider reputation and fewer restrictions on benefits are also important to enrollees

THURSDAY, March 19 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors are not motivated simply by cost alone when choosing which Medicare Part D plan to enroll in, according to a report published in March by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Jonathan Gruber, Ph.D., of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, and colleagues analyzed longitudinal data on prescription drug records for Americans from the Wolters Kluwer company, the largest "switch" operator for prescription drugs, as well as other sources of information on uptake of different Part D plans and claims data.

The lowest-cost stand-alone prescription drug plans were chosen by only 6 percent to 9 percent of seniors in 2006, and those who did not choose the cheapest plan spent between $360 and $520 more than they would have if they had chosen the cheapest option, the author found. Enrollees in the 95th percentile for savings would have saved up to $1,360, assuming their anticipated prescription use, he discovered.

"The unprecedented privatization of a public insurance function embedded in the Medicare Part D program provides an excellent opportunity to understand how well individuals handle choice in their public insurance options," the author writes. "The results presented here suggest that the answer is 'not very well' in terms of maximizing savings to the consumer; most seniors in this analysis did not choose the lowest-cost Part D plan available to them in 2006."

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