Prescription Drug Costs Are a Top Concern for Many Medicare Beneficiaries, Yet 34 Percent Aren’t Reviewing Part D Plans Before Renewal, Walgreens Survey Shows

Survey suggests millions don’t understand prescription drug
benefits or opportunities for cost savings during open enrollment

DEERFIELD, Ill.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–One of the most important and, for some, puzzling times of year is the
Medicare annual enrollment period, when more than 55 million Americans
are able to evaluate and enroll in Medicare Advantage or prescription
drug plans. Among the top concerns for Medicare beneficiaries today is
prescription drug costs, according to a new Walgreens survey. However,
more than one-third (34 percent) say they aren’t taking time to review
their prescription drug plan prior to renewing it and almost
one-in-five (19 percent) don’t have a good understanding of their plan.

In addition to the 34 percent of beneficiaries who said they don’t
review any aspect of their current Part D plan:

  • Twenty-two percent look at just one component, checking, for example,
    to see if their own medications are covered, yet not looking at any
    other important considerations.
  • One-in-five (21 percent) of people surveyed falsely believes that all
    pharmacies charge the same copay.
  • One-third (33 percent) don’t know they can switch pharmacies outside
    of the enrollment period, at any time of year.

The survey of 1,000 Medicare Part D beneficiaries was conducted in
advance of Medicare’s annual enrollment period, which began Oct. 15, and
runs through Dec. 7.

“This latest survey reinforces the need to educate beneficiaries about
how plans and coverage can and do change from year to year, as can a
person’s health and prescription needs,” said John Lee, senior director
of Medicare for Walgreens. “It’s critical for people to be able to get
the medications they need, at prices they can afford. One of the ways
we’re helping to address this need is through participation in preferred
pharmacy networks with most of the leading, national Part D plan
sponsors. Our pharmacists are also a valuable community resource to help
people understand Part D information and their coverage options.”

Other findings of the survey include:

  • When choosing a pharmacy, 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries said
    copay costs are the most important factor, followed by pharmacy
    location (18 percent) and the opportunity for one-stop shopping (18
  • The cost of health care remains a chief concern to respondents, and
    prescription costs slightly outrank other costs as being of greatest
    concern (35 percent). Just below drug costs are expenses associated
    with assisted living (33 percent) or hospital and emergency room
    services (32 percent).
  • In an effort to manage costs, 12 percent of survey respondents said
    that they’ve delayed filling a current prescription, and another 9
    percent have skipped occasional doses to stretch medication supply.

“Any time individuals aren’t remaining adherent to medications it’s a
concern, as it can pose significant health risks, and can also lead to
more healthcare expenditures in the long run,” Lee said.

Lee said that three important things to check when renewing Part D
coverage are:

  • Make sure your prescription drugs are covered.
  • Review the cost of premiums, deductibles and copays.
  • Verify whether your plan has preferred pharmacies.

Walgreens is in the preferred pharmacy network for many of the largest
Medicare plans, including Aetna, Cigna, EnvisionRx, Express Scripts,
First Health, Humana, SilverScript and UnitedHealthcare, as well as
several Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans that use Prime Therapeutics as
their pharmacy benefit manager. Some plan sponsors narrowed their
pharmacy networks for 2017 but still have Walgreens as a preferred
pharmacy. Starting in January, some of these plans offer copays as low
as $0 for generic medications filled at a preferred pharmacy such as

Medicare beneficiaries seeking help navigating insurance plans can visit
In addition, Walgreens has teamed up with eHealth, an independent, fully
licensed health insurance broker that works with more than 180 insurance
carriers nationwide. Free, personalized advice from a licensed eHealth
advisor is available by visiting
Walgreens also offers a Medicare Savings Guide in its stores and online,
and Walgreens pharmacists are available to help beneficiaries explore
ways of lowering prescription costs by recommending options such as
90-day refills and lower-cost brands.

Medicare beneficiaries can also consult 1-800-MEDICARE and
to review and compare plans.

The survey was conducted by Market Insights Group (
on behalf of Walgreens. A total of 1,000 U.S. Medicare Part D
beneficiaries, age 65 and older, were interviewed by telephone between
Sept. 14 and Sept. 25, 2016. The data was weighted by gender, age,
region and race to be representative of the population of Medicare Part
D beneficiaries.

About Walgreens

Walgreens (,
one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains, is included in the Retail
Pharmacy USA Division of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (NASDAQ: WBA),
the first global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing enterprise. More
than 10 million customers interact with Walgreens each day in
communities across America, using the most convenient, multichannel
access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective
pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice. Walgreens operates
8,175 drugstores with a presence in all 50 states, the District of
Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Walgreens omnichannel
business includes and Approximately 400
Walgreens stores offer Healthcare Clinic or other provider retail clinic


Jim Graham