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Most seniors now have drug coverage, U-M study shows

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---More than 90 percent of Americans age 65 and older now have prescription drug coverage, compared to more than 75 percent who were covered in 2004, according to a University of Michigan analysis. And poor seniors are as likely to have coverage as the rich.

The analysis compares drug coverage among a nationally representative sample of 10,175 older Americans who were interviewed both in 2004 and in 2006, when the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit started. The report is to be presented today in Washington, D.C.

The interviews are part of the on-going Health and Retirement Study, conducted by the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and funded primarily by the National Institute on Aging,

"Despite widespread complaints that the Part D plan is complex and confusing, our findings suggest that older Americans have been able to make good choices," said U-M economist David Weir, who directs the ISR Health and Retirement Study. Weir conducted the analysis with U-M economist Helen Levy.

They presented their findings today at the National Press Club, at a conference on "Challenges and Solutions for Retirement Security" sponsored by the Social Security Administration and the Retirement Research Consortium.

In 2004, nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Americans age 65 and older lacked prescription drug coverage, Levy and Weir found, compared with fewer than 10 percent in 2006.

The overall enrollment figures found in this study were quite similar to those reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with roughly a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in stand-alone Part D coverage in 2006.

But using data from the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers were able to go beyond the official statistics to show that rich and poor were equally likely to sign up for Part D and private coverage, and to lack coverage. Wealthy elders were much more likely to have
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Contact: Diane Swanbrow
swanbrow@umich.edu
734-647-9069
University of Michigan
9-Aug-2007


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