A new analysis released by Avalere Health finds that low-cost Medicare Part D prescription drug plans use preferred pharmacy networks “to attract cost-conscious enrollees” and that these plans “have successfully gained market share over the past two years” and “that this trend will continue into 2014.” Preferred pharmacy network drug plans typically offer lower cost-sharing options, such as premiums and copays, to seniors.

“Patients love low premium preferred network plans because they cost less and still offer an abundance of pharmacy choices,” said Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) President and CEO Mark Merritt.

Currently there are more drugstores in the U.S. than McDonald’s, Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, Wendy’s, Taco Bells, Kentucky Fried Chickens, Domino’s Pizzas, and Dunkin’ Donuts combined, creating a highly competitive environment.

Avalere identified four “low-cost standalone prescription drug plans” with average 2014 monthly premiums below $30. Each of these low-cost drug plans feature preferred pharmacy networks.

Low-Cost Medicare Prescription Drug Plans Feature Preferred Pharmacy Networks

avalere graphic2

Source: Premium data as reported by Avalere Health in news release “Avalere Analysis Reveals First Drop in Medicare Advantage Offerings Since 2011,” September 23, 2013. Avalere Health analysis using DataFrame®, a proprietary database of Medicare Part D plan features and 2014 PDP data released by CMS on September 19, 2013 and weighted by September 2013 enrollment. Separately, PCMA determined which low-cost plans have preferred pharmacy networks.

Medicare seniors are overwhelmingly satisfied with their pharmacy network plans, have convenient access to pharmacies, and would be disappointed if these plans were eliminated, according to a recent poll from Hart Research Associates.
Key findings from the survey of seniors about their Part D preferred network plan include:

  • Four in five seniors (80%) would be disappointed if their preferred network plan is eliminated.
  • Seniors are overwhelmingly satisfied (85%) with their preferred network plans.
  • The cost of premiums (50%) and copays (48%) are the most important considerations for seniors in selecting preferred pharmacy plans.
  • Seniors very satisfied with the convenience of pharmacies (81%), the number of pharmacies in their network (74%), and the prescription medications available through their plan (75%).
  • Cost is the top factor for all regardless of incomes, age, number of medications, and distance from their drugstore.

More than 40% of Part D seniors are currently enrolled in plans with preferred networks.