I am a regular contributor to the Medicare Rights Center, a non-profit advocate for those on Medicare. Their current news release by Julie Carter makes me concerned about the upcoming Medicare Annual enrollment in making recommendations for people to use mail order.
A data note by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) shows possible trouble ahead for people with Medicare who rely on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to deliver their prescription medications. Recent changes at the USPS have begun to slow delivery of many types of mail, and those delays threaten prescription drug access. Across the nation, there are reports of people going without their medications, which could have dire consequences for those with chronic or severe illnesses.
According to KFF, 17% of people with Medicare who used their Part D prescription drug coverage in 2018— approximately 7.3 million people— had at least one medication delivered via USPS. Those numbers were up sharply in the first half of 2020, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, millions of beneficiaries currently rely on mail or pharmacies for timely delivery of their medications.
Consumers choose mail-order pharmacies for a host of reasons, including cost, access, safety and convenience. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs makes widespread use of mail-order pharmacies.
Some Medicare plans encourage the use of mail-order pharmacies by offering large savings for using that option.
This could leave people with those plans in a bind if they must suddenly switch to a retail pharmacy.
Also, retail pharmacies may not be an option
for people with limited mobility, transportation issues and specialized or compounded drug needs. In addition, many people with Medicare fall into higher-risk categories for significant coronavirus repercussions and may feel unsafe picking up their prescriptions in person.
At Medicare Rights, we are deeply concerned when people with Medicare— and others who rely on prescription medications— face dangerous delays in drug access that may put them at risk for severe consequences.
Those who currently use mail-order delivery and want to investigate whether there are safe and affordable retail options, should contact their drug plan directly. We recommend asking what local pharmacies are available and how any changes may impact current costs.
Since transferring a prescription can take some time, it’s best to begin this process with plenty of medication on hand.
Those who switch to a retail pharmacy may want to select one with delivery or curbside pickup options that make their location safe and accessible.