Fewer plans will be available under the Medicare prescription drug benefit next year as a result of market forces driving down prescription drug prices.

Some plans will be more popular than others in 2007 and more consolidation of plans is likely to occur, said Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Other simplifications of the program are also expected to occur. Leavitt cited the elimination of separate applications for every plan. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is also trying to improve drug plans’ customer service. It is monitoring plans’ call centers and their speed at processing enrollment applications.