Extending Medicare drug payments pays

Extending prescription coverage for Medicare enrollees sounds like an expensive boondoggle to some. However, a new study suggests that the extra cost of such coverage was substantially offset on lower spending for patients who didn't have prescription-drug access before.

These findings conclude that while monthly spending, including on both insurer costs and plan co-pays, rose $41 after uninsured participants joined Medicare Part D plans, spending on other forms of medical care by newly-covered folks fell by $33 a month. Authors also believe that increased use of meds improved control of chronic illnesses, a major policy and clinical goal for healthcare system players.

One cautionary note arose, however. The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and funded by NIH, concluded that the study group with the most generous drug coverage increased spending on both prescription drugs and other medical needs. The study's authors concluded that people with rich coverage might actually overuse drugs.

To learn more about the study:
- read this Kaiser Health News item