Medicare beneficiaries without prescription drug coverage consistently fill fewer prescriptions than beneficiaries with some form of drug coverage due to cost. ESRD patients, who are disproportionately poor and typically use multiple oral medications, would likely benefit substantially from any form of prescription drug coverage. Because most hemodialysis patients are Medicare-eligible, they as well as their providers would be expected to be well informed of changes in Medicare prescription drug coverage. By examining the level of understanding and use of the temporary Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Card Program in the hemodialysis population, we can gain a better understanding of the potential long-term utilization for Medicare Part D.We surveyed English-speaking adult hemodialysis patients with Medicare coverage from two urban hemodialysis centers affiliated with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) during July and August 2005 (n = 70). We also surveyed University- and community-based nephrologists and non-physician dialysis health care professionals over the same time frame (n = 70).Fifty-nine percent of patients received prescription drug coverage through Medi-Cal, 20% through another insurance program, and 21% had no prescription drug coverage. Forty percent of patients with no prescription drug coverage reported "sometimes" or "rarely" being able to obtain medications vs. 22% of patients with some form of drug coverage. None of the patients surveyed actually had a Medicare-approved prescription drug card, and of those who intended to apply, only 10% reported knowing how to do so. Only 11% health care professionals knew the eligibility requirements of the drug discount cards.Despite a significant need, hemodialysis patients and providers were poorly educated about the Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Cards. This has broad implications for the dissemination of information about Medicare Part D.
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