A pain-free way for seniors to chip in on health care costs

The fiscally reckless Medicare Part D drug benefit –passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican President– continues to add to the US federal deficit and debt. I’m resigned to this program’s continuation but perhaps there is hope for it to be modified or somehow brought into better balance.

A hint of how this could be accomplished is found in a new study that compares the Veterans Administration with Medicare on drug policies and spending. Medicare Part D patients are much more likely to take brand name drugs rather than less expensive generic products. The difference accounts for about $1.4 billion in excess drug spend by Medicare annually.

The VA has a policy requiring that patients try generics first before moving to on-patent products. They also restrict doctor/drug company interactions.

I don’t see any real reason that Medicare Part D shouldn’t follow the VA on this matter. If patients want more freedom of choice on benefit design let them pay more for it.

June 13, 2013

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