New Report: Lessons We Can Learn from the Launch of Medicare Part D

By William Tomasko

With just three and a half months left until the new health insurance marketplaces open, we’ve all been hearing frenzied claims that the government–and consumers–won’t be ready for open enrollment.

However, a report released last week by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms tells the story of how, despite similar, widespread worries leading up to the launch of Medicare Part D in 2005, the program’s successful kickoff surprised the skeptics and fulfilled its mission of delivering affordable access to prescription drugs to millions of seniors.

The report describes the many difficulties Medicare Part D was facing around 100 days before it was set to offer benefits, the same point we are at now in the countdown to open enrollment for the marketplaces. The public was skeptical of the new law and generally unaware of the benefits that would be available soon. Critics were worried that not enough insurers would participate and that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could not handle the logistical and management challenges. Costs were projected to be too high for consumers.

Sound familiar?

Read the full CHIR study to learn how, despite those low expectations, Medicare Part D took off and transformed from a target of criticism into “a core part of Medicare, with broad – and bipartisan – support,” as one of the authors wrote in a recent blog post. The report contains lessons for how policy-makers and stakeholders can learn from that recent history to help deliver affordable health insurance to as many people as possible when open enrollment begins in October.

The controversy subsided. The public caught on. The program was ready. And history can repeat itself this year.

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