Medicare Part D keeps seniors out of nursing homes, hospitals, study shows

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Improved Medicare Part D drug coverage leads to rise in antibiotic use, study finds
Improved Medicare Part D drug coverage leads to rise in antibiotic use, study finds

Medicare's prescription-coverage program cuts healthcare costs by about $12 billion. That's because the benefit reduces admissions to nursing homes and hospitals, according to a new study.

Harvard investigators analyzed nondrug Medicare spending for 6,000 seniors between 2004 and 2007. The Medicare Part D program (which covers medication costs) started in 2006. Researchers said that by comparing spending trends before and after the benefit began, they could calculate nondrug savings. While the $12 billion in savings offsets only a portion of the approximately $55 billion the government spends on Medicare Part D, seniors are living longer, healthier lives, study authors say. The subsidized drug benefit lets seniors afford preventive medicines that lower their blood pressure and cholesterol, take appropriate antibiotics, and keep their insulin levels and diabetes controlled.

"This is an example of how primary and preventive care, and ongoing continuity of care, is important," Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, told HealthDay News. "In the old days, before we had a drug benefit, people would skip pills, not take appropriate dosages and wouldn't renew prescriptions because they couldn't afford it. [Now we know] that if we provide comprehensive drug benefits, we can save money down the line and keep people out of higher, costlier levels of care.”

The study was published in the July 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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