A new analysis of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Medicare Part D 2015 enrollment data shows that 81 percent of seniors chose lower-cost preferred pharmacy plans that offer convenient access and extra discounts at certain pharmacies. The findings were released by Drug Channels.

“Preferred pharmacy plans are now the foundation of Medicare Part D,” said Pharmaceutical Care Management Association President and CEO Mark Merritt. “Last year CMS defused a bipartisan uproar by withdrawing its proposal to overhaul Part D and promising Congress to end its pursuit of ‘controversial’ requirements that put preferred pharmacy plans and other benefits at risk.”

Through December 4, 2014, 15.4 million beneficiaries enrolled in preferred pharmacy Part D plans.

The enrollment data analysis adds to a growing body of evidence showing that preferred pharmacies in Part D are lowering costs and offering seniors convenient access to their medicines.

A recent survey conducted by Hart Research Associates shows that nine out of 10 seniors from urban, suburban, small town and rural areas have convenient access to these discounted pharmacies in Part D.

An actuarial study finds that preferred pharmacy plans will reduce federal Medicare Part D costs up to $9.3 billion during the next 10 years.

Another actuarial study finds that eliminating preferred pharmacy plans in Part D would increase premiums by approximately $63 annually for over 75 percent of Part D enrollees and raise overall program costs by an estimated $24 billion over the next 10 years.

Currently, most national Part D pharmacy networks include nearly all drugstores — almost 67,000 nationwide — giving beneficiaries access to more pharmacy locations than the combined number of McDonald’s, Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, Wendy’s, Taco Bells, Kentucky Fried Chickens, Domino’s Pizzas, and Dunkin’ Donuts across the country.