Drug coverage of Medicare beneficiaries with kidney failure -- some surprising findings

The majority of Medicare beneficiaries with kidney failure participate in Medicare's Part D prescription drug coverage program, and most of these receive a low-income subsidy from the program, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society Nephrology (JASN). The study presents the most comprehensive description of drug coverage to date among Medicare beneficiaries with kidney failure.

More than 500,000 individuals in the United States have kidney failure. Most are covered by , which makes them eligible to voluntarily enroll in one of various Medicare Part D plans. Drug coverage is so important for kidney failure patients because they must often take a dozen or more different prescription medications.

"Enrollment in a Medicare Part D plan has the potential to reduce prescription drug costs for kidney failure patients and may make it easier for many to afford the medications they need," said Benjamin Howell (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services).

Despite the importance of for with kidney failure, little is known about how these patients choose and obtain drug coverage. To investigate, Howell and his colleagues analyzed drug coverage information for 87,184 kidney failure patients who were enrolled in Medicare in 2007.

Approximately 64% of Medicare beneficiaries with kidney failure were enrolled in . Among these, 72% received financial assistance from the program due to low income (compared with 39% of beneficiaries without kidney failure who received such assistance).

Those without financial assistance preferred expensive comprehensive options without coverage gaps, likely because kidney failure requires intensive and consistent medication therapy.

The researchers also found that 9% of Medicare beneficiaries with kidney failure obtained retiree drug coverage from a former employer, 10% received coverage from another creditable source, and 17% lacked a known source of credible drug coverage. (Some may have obtained coverage from private sources not typically reported to Medicare.)

Many Medicare beneficiaries with kidney failure say the high costs of medications have prevented them from following their doctors' orders. Therefore, more outreach is needed to ensure they obtain drug coverage and join the best plans for managing their disease and its complications without burdening them financially.

More information: The article, entitled "Sources of Drug Coverage Among Medicare Beneficiaries with ESRD" will appear online on March 8, 2012, doi: 10.1681/ASN.2011070740

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Seniors in Medicare's doughnut hole decrease use of meds

Feb 03, 2009

Beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part D who reached a gap in health care coverage known as the "doughnut hole" were much less likely to use prescription drugs than those with an employer-based plan, according to a University ...

Medicare drug plan changes affect seniors

Oct 04, 2006

U.S. officials say changes in the Medicare prescription drug plan for next year will include more choices and better coverage especially in the "doughnut hole."

Study addresses impact of Medicare Part D on medical spending

Jul 01, 2009

After enrolling in Medicare Part D, seniors who previously had limited or no drug coverage spent more on prescriptions and less on other medical care services such as hospitalizations and visits to the doctor's office, according ...

Recommended for you

Porches an overlooked lead hazard

2 hours ago

A new study in the journal Environmental Health indicates that porches in older homes can be a significant source of lead dust and that housing regulations – which have been instrumental in lower rates ...

Child maltreatment not a clear path to adult crime

2 hours ago

Research has found a significant link between childhood abuse and neglect and crime in adulthood. But a recent University of Washington study finds that link all but disappears when accounting for other life factors.

Canada's Winnipeg still under boil-water advisory

5 hours ago

Residents of Canada's sixth-largest city were advised to keep boiling tap water before using it late Wednesday, even though latest tests showed no traces of harmful bacteria, officials said.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.