Skimping can't save older adults from increased medical costs

Medicare recipients filled fewer prescriptions for expensive brand-name drugs, but spent more on such products anyway, according to an HHS inspector general's report due out Monday. The report found a 17% decline in the overall number of prescriptions for brand-name medicines under Medicare's Part D program over a recent 5-year period.

Medicare recipients filled fewer prescriptions for expensive brand-name drugs, but spent more on such products anyway, according to an HHS inspector general's report due out Monday. The report found a 17% decline in the overall number of prescriptions for brand-name medicines under Medicare's Part D program over a recent 5-year period. But beneficiaries' share of costs for branded medicines from 2011 to 2015 rose by 40%, from $161 in 2011 to $225 on average. Data for 2011–15 were the most recent available for the analysis. "Increases in unit prices for brand-name drugs resulted in Medicare and its beneficiaries paying more for these drugs," said the report. Rising Medicare payments for brand-name products "will continue to affect Part D and its beneficiaries for years to come." The report emphasized that the most persistent problem for Medicare beneficiaries is the high cost of maintenance medications for common chronic conditions such as diabetes. Total out-of-pocket costs for patients were highest for brand-name insulin, cholesterol products, and asthma inhalers.