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Drug costs persist as concern for Medicare patients

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More than a third of Medicare Part D beneficiaries (37 percent) say they have daily concerns about their prescription drug costs.

Moreover, one in five say they’ve had to make sacrifices — such as delaying filling a prescription or skipping doses — to help manage medication costs, according to a new Walgreens survey.

More than 31.5 million people were enrolled in Part D, Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program, in 2012, according to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“With recent changes to Medicare and other programs under health care reform, it’s critical for beneficiaries to fully understand their options and ways to make their health care dollars go further,” Dan Luce, director of pharmacy affairs at Walgreens, said in a statement.

Despite the majority of beneficiaries saying they have a clear understanding of their plan benefits, the poll of 1,000 Medicare Part D beneficiaries found there remains widespread confusion over costs and benefits.

Only half realize that co-pays for Part D prescriptions can vary by pharmacy. And nearly 30 percent don’t know they can switch pharmacies at any time, believing they can only do so during Medicare open enrollment.

Only 15 percent of those surveyed were able to correctly identify the major components of national Part D prescription plans.

But perhaps most important to note is that beneficiaries are most concerned about their prescription drug costs.

“If cost is a contributor to patients not adhering to medication therapies, as the survey findings show, it’s always a concern because non-adherence can be a significant and costly barrier in treating illness,” Luce said.

More than half (55 percent) of the seniors surveyed say they would switch pharmacies if it meant savings on prescription drug costs.

Most seniors are trying to lower prescription costs. Seven in 10 (72 percent) have switched to generic medications, and (44 percent) are filling more 90-day prescriptions in an effort to save.

Luce said the poll underscores the need to “educate Part D beneficiaries about how they can save on prescription and other health care costs.”

Some tips on how to do so? Using a preferred network pharmacy, comparing co-pays and other costs against a current plan and pharmacy, and talking to a pharmacist about cost concerns and ways to save.

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