Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Kaiser Health News ran an article (before Congress recessed), Seniors Face Crushing Drug Costs as Congress Stalls on Capping Medicare Out-Of-Pockets.
Many Americans with cancer or other serious medical conditions face ... prescription drug ordeals. It’s often worse, however, for Medicare patients. Unlike private health insurance, Part D drug plans have no cap on patients’ 5% coinsurance costs once they hit $6,550 in drug spending this year (rising from $6,350 in 2020), except for very low-income beneficiaries.
President-elect Joe Biden favors a cap, and Democrats and Republicans in Congress have proposed annual limits ranging from $2,000 to $3,100. But there’s disagreement about how to pay for that cost cap. Drug companies and insurers, which support the concept, want someone else to bear the financial burden.
That forces patients to rely on the financial assistance programs. These arrangements, however, do nothing to reduce prices. In fact, they help drive up America’s uniquely high drug spending by encouraging doctors and patients to use the priciest medications when cheaper alternatives may be available.
The article examines the cost of specialty drugs and reviews the results of a 2019 Kaiser survey on the issue. The high cost of such drugs may impede a person's ability to retire, the article noted. The article reviews the situation of some folks who have had to make treatment decisions based on costs and some choose to not have a prescription filled due to the costs.
There is help from some non-profits, but beneficiaries may not know about them. "The high drug prices and coverage gaps have forced many patients to rely on complicated financial assistance programs offered by drug companies and foundations. Under federal rules, the foundations can help Medicare patients as long as they pay for drugs made by all manufacturers, not just by the company funding the foundation."
Stay tuned to see if Congress takes up the issue when it reconvenes.