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

March 8, 2012

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.

Explore further: Reducing drug funding to Medicare patients will lead many to stop taking their medications

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

Related Stories

Reducing drug funding to Medicare patients will lead many to stop taking their medications

August 16, 2011
The lack of financial assistance to cover the cost of drugs to Medicare beneficiaries (the US government's health insurance program for people aged 65 or over, which currently covers 50 million US citizens) could result in ...

Medicare Part D associated with reduction in nondrug medical spending

July 26, 2011
Among elderly Medicare beneficiaries with limited prior drug coverage, implementation of Medicare Part D was associated with significant reductions in nondrug medical spending, such as for inpatient and skilled nursing facility ...

Recommended for you

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

0 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.