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The Joan Lunden Interview (Page 1 of 2)


Gary Barg: This one is really important to us. Todayís Caregiver magazine is 18 years old now, so we were around when Medicare Part D rolled out. As we talk to family caregivers at our caregiver conferences and through the magazine, the confusion is such a huge issue. We need to help our senior loved ones get medications, as cost effectively as they can, and use them appropriately. You were involved with a survey that helps reveal what the beneficiaries understand about their plans. What did that survey reveal?

Joan Lunden: Well, the survey was done by Walgreenís and what probably is most disturbing is what they didnít understand about their plans. If you ask them if they understand their plans, three-quarters of them say yes, but when you really starting asking about the nuances, fifty percent of them didnít realize that co-pays were different at different pharmacies, that they could really shop it around.

The really troubling part of the survey to me is that one in five said that the way they were dealing with not being able to afford their prescription care was they were skipping doses in order to make a prescription last a little longer or they werenít getting them refilled. In fact, one in four said that when a doctor wrote them a prescription, they didnít even bother getting it refilled.

Now, we know that whatever condition the prescription was being written for, if it goes unchecked, they are going to end up in the hospital and it's going to cost the healthcare industry far more. In fact, nonadherence to medication therapy is said to cost the US healthcare system about three hundred billion dollars a year. So this is a huge problem for our country.

But today, I want to talk about individuals because a lot of the seniors and their caregivers donít even know the questions to ask. Medicare Part D plans have changed a little bit over the last few years in that many of them are now associated with pharmaceutical chains. So now, we need to ask if there is a preferred pharmacy network within my prescription plan. If there is, I could probably get far lower co-pays by purchasing my prescriptions within that preferred plan.

We have been taught to be compliant, obedient, walk in, let them look at us and tell us whatís wrong, and walk out. We canít interact with the healthcare industry like that anymore. We need to be an active participant. We need to walk in with a set of questions. We need to walk out with a set of notes. We need to understand why we are taking the medication. We need to know more than just what our numbers are. You need to know what your cholesterol and high blood pressure numbers mean. What do you need to do? What lifestyle changes and what prescriptions might you go on to bring you back into a normal range?

And when you walk into a pharmacy, you ask questions Ė ask questions about the co-pay so that you can make sure that you are getting the lowest co-pay.

Gary Barg: What do we need to know about our Medicare Part D plans to actually be a fearless caregiver, to make these informed decisions?

Joan Lunden: It's amazing that I have actually talked to people today that didnít even know there was a Part D. The Part A is the one that everybody signs up for; it covers hospital and doctor visits and things. But it doesnít mean anything when you walk into a drugstore. You need to be signed up for that Part D Prescription Plan. There are a lot of different plans you can choose from. And that, of course, has to happen in the enrollment periodóOctober 15th through December 7th.



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