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Most Survey Respondents Give Medicare Part D Thumbs-Up

But health policy and finance experts suggest more changes are needed to improve drug access

TUESDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Most health experts surveyed in the latest Commonwealth Fund Health Care Opinion Leaders Survey say Medicare Part D has been good for beneficiaries who are vulnerable to high drug costs, but that more changes are needed.

Harris Interactive, Inc. conducted the online e-mail survey of 180 health care, finance and policy experts from June 1 to June 19, 2006, for the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation backing independent health and social research.

Two-thirds of survey respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that Part D has helped Medicare beneficiaries. But only 2 percent approved of leaving the current system as it is. The majority thought that more people should be eligible by raising the income level needed to qualify for a subsidy (62 percent), that the asset test should be eliminated when deciding who gets subsidies (57 percent) and that the government should offer all-inclusive plans of Medicare benefits rather than requiring participants to use private and Medigap insurances to supplement Medicare (78 percent).

Only 30 percent approved of making drug coverage accessible only through private plans, 8 percent approved of the late enrollment deadline, and 77 percent wanted benefits standardized to eliminate differences among plans.

"A majority of the health care leaders surveyed express positive views of the program," the authors write. "Still, it is notable that there is considerable skepticism about key aspects."

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