NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 13, 2006

Pharmacists have borne the brunt of Medicare's problem-plagued drug benefit over the last six weeks. But Dallas pharmacist Jim Porter, who swore off third-party payments, created his own senior discount program. He says it is more convenient and no more costly than Medicare's drug insurance -- at least for older adults who only take a few prescriptions. There are no long applications to complete, no phone menus to navigate and no sales agents to hear.

Here is how Porter's program works:

  • People 65 and older qualify for the discount plan.
  • After they sign up, they pay 6 percent above Porter's cost, plus $5, for most manufactured drugs.
  • That compares with the 10 percent to 12 percent markup that industry experts say is common at pharmacies.

Comparisons between Porter's senior discount program and the Medicare drug benefit vary, depending on the prescriptions and the drug plans' costs for those medications. Here's how one hypothetical customer's costs would compare:

  • A woman with five prescriptions would pay no premiums and no deductibles and about $2,261 in out-of-pocket expenses a year through the senior discount program.
  • If that same customer enrolled in a Medicare drug insurance plan with the standard benefit, she would pay $384 in premiums; $250 in deductibles and about $1,610 in other out-of-pocket expenses, for a total of $2,244 for the year.

Medicare officials encourage seniors to check out the new drug plans. Discount plans aren't forever, says Sandra Hall, who's overseeing Medicare's drug plan enrollment initiatives in Texas. The pharmacists who offer them could end their discounts or go out of business, leaving people high and dry, she said.

Source: Bob Moos, "Druggist Mixes His Own Program," Dallas Morning News, February 8, 2006.


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