Medicare Part D program is a success story
BY PHIL WOODWARD
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
11/28/12 at 3:27 AM
From now until Dec. 7, the Medicare enrollment period is open for Oklahoma's qualifying seniors. As executive director of the Oklahoma Pharmacists Association, I've had a front-row seat in observing the success of the Medicare Part D prescription drug program for Oklahoma's seniors.
For the more than 625,000 Medicare beneficiaries here in Oklahoma and those who will use the program in coming decades, it's good news that the future of Medicare was a centerpiece of the 2012 election. Unlike other issues that caused deep divisions, all sides seem to agree that the program must be updated if it's going to continue to work for many future generations to come.
The passage of Part D was the fulfillment of a promise to American seniors that was made decades earlier. Today, Part D is a clear success story. The program does what many thought would be impossible: It regularly outperforms initial cost projections. Projected costs for the program's first 10 years are now running 42 percent below initial estimates.
This is especially good news for Oklahoma, where, according to data compiled by statehealthfacts.org, per-capita health-care costs are rising faster than the national average.
The most encouraging result of Part D is that it has increased drug adherence among seniors participating in the program. This means that more and more seniors are doing a better job of sticking to the prescription regimen outlined by their doctors because they have affordable access to medicines.
Such increased adherence not only leads to better health outcomes for this population, it also does a great deal to address the economic problems currently facing our health-care system. According to a study by the New England Health-care Institute, patient failure to adhere to prescribed courses of treatment costs the U.S. health-care system $290 billion a year in avoidable medical expenses. With many Oklahoma seniors living on fixed incomes and tight budgets, avoiding additional expenses gets more important each day.
Increasingly, Oklahoma's pharmacies are playing a more integral role in assisting Oklahoma's seniors with many of these issues. For example, a community pharmacy often provides patients the benefit of face-to-face interaction with a trusted, local pharmacist to help them manage their prescription drugs and encourage their adherence to medication schedules, which promotes overall wellness. Face-to-face interaction also drives better patient outcomes and reduces costs to employers and payers. All of this leads to a greater quality of life.
Oklahoma pharmacists see firsthand that smart and effective health care reform like the Medicare Part D program can improve the lives of Oklahomans.
Let's encourage our U.S. senators and congressmen to carefully consider maintaining and strengthening what's already working.
In the coming weeks, lawmakers will likely consider proposals to revamp Medicare as a whole. We must urge them to protect Part D, empower local pharmacists and avoid disrupting a program that is working well for more than 40 million people nationwide.
The Oklahoma seniors who take part in the Medicare Part D program will certainly benefit through an increased quality of life. That's good news for everyone because when the lives of our seniors are enhanced, the whole state thrives.
Phil Woodward is executive director of the Oklahoma Pharmacists Association.
Phil Woodward: Oklahoma pharmacists see firsthand that smart and effective health care reform ... can improve the lives of Oklahomans