Medicare beneficiaries will likely be pleased to know that, if they use a preferred pharmacy network, they're likely spending less on their premiums, while still enjoying the same or better quality as compared to plans that do not include preferred pharmacies.


New analysis from strategic advisory services firm Avalere Health indicated  average premiums for Medicare prescription drug plans (PDPs) using preferred pharmacy networks tend to be lower than the premiums for plans that do not have preferred networks.


"Preferred pharmacy plans can offer Medicare beneficiaries the same quality at less than half the premium of plans without preferred networks," said Mark Merritt, the President and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.


For example, for a basic Medicare PDP with a preferred pharmacy network, the average monthly premium is just under $30. That's about 17% cheaper than plan types without a preferred network.


The same holds true for enhanced PDPs at a monthly rate of just over $49, which averages nearly 60% less than non-preferred plans.


Moreover, basic PDPs with preferred networks have an average quality rating of 3.3, compared to 3.0 stars for those without preferred networks.  Enhanced PDPs with preferred networks have 3.5 stars, the same rating as those without preferred networks.


According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, more than one-third of individuals who have a prescription drug plan use a preferred pharmacy network.