While prescription drugs have become an increasingly important part of health care for the elderly, more than one-quarter of all Medicare beneficiaries have no prescription drug coverage. Over the past decade, private companies and not-for-profit organizations have sponsored prescription drug discount cards that offer discounts from the prices the elderly would otherwise have to pay for their prescriptions. These cards are typically administered by pharmacy benefit managers (PBM). Pharmaceutical manufacturers also sponsor and administer their own discount cards. The Administration has been interested in endorsing specific drug cards for Medicare beneficiaries to make the discounts more widely available. Legislative proposals in the Senate and House of Representatives have included drug cards as a means to lower prescription drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries. GAO was asked to examine how existing drug discount cards work and the prices available to card holders. Specifically, GAO evaluated the extent to which PBM-administered drug discount cards offer savings off non-card prices at 40 pharmacies in California, North Dakota, and Washington, D.C., and the differences between PBM-administered cards and cards sponsored by pharmaceutical manufacturers.
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