I’ve been involved with public policy for older Americans for over 20 years and became a senior user of healthcare services myself not too long ago. Needless to say, I know a thing or two about Washington and have experienced firsthand the policies that come out of it.
In late 2019, I was honored to become the newest host of Seniors Speak Out (SSO), which gives America’s older patients and Medicare beneficiaries a chance to advocate for healthcare policy issues they care about.
One thing this organization has shown me is that when seniors are given a chance to be heard, they will take it. For example, Medicare Today — an alliance of organizations advocating for the strength and stability of the Medicare program — recently released its annual Senior Satisfaction Survey, a survey to gauge how seniors feel about their Medicare Part D coverage plans.
The 2020 survey found that the prescription drug program remains extraordinarily popular among the millions of senior citizens who are enrolled in it. In fact, the survey found that nearly 96 percent of seniors are satisfied with their Medicare coverage overall with 92 percent satisfied with their prescription drug coverage.
While the findings of the survey are significant, they are in no way surprising when evaluated in conjunction with the overall success the program has had in providing low-cost, convenient drug coverage for seniors.
You see, Part D enrollment has doubled since the program started in 2006, and now a total of 45 million people with Medicare are enrolled in plans that provide the Medicare Part D drug benefit. Thanks to guardrails put in place by the government as well as the program’s competitive marketplace, Part D has continued to provide seniors access to the prescriptions they need to live normal and healthy lives.
These medications include insulin, pain relievers and medications that treat high blood pressure. Additionally, the survey tells us that seniors are also happy with the convenience and flexibility of the Part D program. These traits encourage seniors to take better control of their overall health and wellness.
However, despite these positive survey results, we cannot forget that we are living in the middle of a global pandemic that has been especially hard on seniors. Back in June 2020, SSO did a poll concerning COVID-19’s impact on seniors, and unsurprisingly, 27 percent of respondents felt it had been more difficult getting their medicines.
While Part D will continue to help beneficiaries afford medications, it’s critical that our government takes appropriate action to ensure medications and in-home care is accessible for America’s most vulnerable patients during tough times.
Further, the survey results contradict any conclusion that senior discontent is driving recent efforts by policymakers to make harmful changes to the Medicare program.
While I encourage lawmakers to always be on the hunt for effective ways to lower costs for all Americans, I hope they concurrently weigh senior satisfaction with any decision making affecting this critical government program.
I also hope political prerogatives do not drive changes to Medicare Part D or Part B (the program that covers physician-administered medications). As the renowned economist Milton Friedman once said, “nothing is more permanent than a temporary solution,” and so we must be extremely vigilant in the policies we use as we continue in our endeavor to lower drug prices for program beneficiaries.
To underscore Part D’s successes, 91 percent of respondents agreed they would recommend a friend or family member considering Medicare prescription drug coverage to sign up.
Keep in mind that government programs are historically contentious, but the Part D program continues to win the trust of the seniors enrolled. Not to mention that over the years, the Part D program has consistently come in under the original estimated cost — I cannot think of another government program that spends less than intended.
Every year we look forward to this survey so we can keep a pulse on Part D satisfaction and, once again, the survey shows the important role Part D plays in providing beneficiaries with the high-quality healthcare they deserve.
It’s up to advocates and legislators to ensure it continues to do so.