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New Medicare Drug Benefit is Meeting or Exceeding Expectations

AARP Survey Details Public Reaction to Prescription Drug Plans

According to a new survey released today by AARP, nearly eight-in-ten, (78 percent) of those enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan say they are satisfied.

The AARP study was released about one month before Medicare's drug benefit enrollment deadline of May 15th. According to beneficiary June Dirks of Wichita, Kansas, if you haven't yet enrolled, "It's time to get moving!"

With her new drug plan, Ms. Dirks is saving about $200 every three months. She is not alone. Only 20 percent of respondents felt like they were not saving money with their plans."

AARP Director of Health Strategy Cheryl Matheis explains, "Before Medicare added a drug benefit, more than half of those in the program either lacked drug coverage or had inadequate coverage that did not protect them from high out-of-pocket costs. The new plans fill a critical need for affordable prescriptions drugs."

As of March 2006, over 27 million Medicare beneficiaries have prescription drug coverage. Of those surveyed who had prescription drug coverage before 2006, 63 percent reported their new Medicare drug plan is either better or as good as their previous coverage. Only 17 percent felt their new coverage is worse than what they had in 2005 and in prior years.

Because people are now using their new drug plans, AARP is hearing stories of savings everyday. "Only a few short months ago, we were hearing stories from people who had to make difficult choices to afford their prescription drugs. Now the choice has become which of the many drug plans is best for me?" noted Matheis.

Forty percent of those surveyed thought they would need to give up something if Medicare had not added the new prescription drug benefit. Respondents often listed groceries, cutting back on medication, looking for less expensive housing, and cutting back on savings as sacrifices they would most commonly have to make.

AARP is working to make the Medicare drug program even stronger by allowing HHS to negotiate drug prices for the program, and to get rid of the limited income asset test that has been a barrier to enrollment for many low-income beneficiaries. But AARP is helping people make the most out of the plan options that are now available.

For peace of mind that they will be protected from future high costs, and to save the most, AARP reminds people to sign up for a plan before the May 15th deadline.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50-plus have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our website, www.aarp.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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