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Medicare's unlimited drug costs hit older people hard: shots



Both Democrats and Republicans have put forward proposals to limit the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare patients. However, it is still unclear whether these steps will take root.

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Jeffrey Hamilton / Getty Images

Both Democrats and Republicans have put forward proposals to limit the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare patients. However, it is still unclear whether these steps will take root.

Jeffrey Hamilton / Getty Images

Three times a week, the 66-year-old Gervich death injects Copaxone, a prescription drug that can reduce the incidence of relapses in people with some forms of multiple sclerosis. Having lived with the disease for over 20 years, the self-certified financial planner in Mashpee, Massachusetts, is used to managing his condition. He can not get used to how Medicare's co-insurance charges weigh on his wallet.

In contrast to the commercial plans that cut members' drug costs each year, Medicare in Part D has no limit on prescription drugs. his drug benefit. As the cost of specialty medicines increases, some Medicare beneficiaries may owe thousands of dollars in drug costs each year for a single drug.

Recent proposals from the Trump administration and Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Would address the long-standing problem by imposing an expenditure ceiling , However, it is unclear whether any of these proposals will take root.

The introduction of the Medicare drug in 2006 was a blessing for seniors, but the coverage had flaws. One was the so-called donut hole – the gap the beneficiaries entered after accumulating a few thousand dollars in drug costs and then hooking them up for the full cost of their medicines. Another reason was the lack of an annual cap on drug spending.

Changes to the law have gradually closed the donut hole so that beneficiaries will no longer face a gap in coverage this year. In a standard Medicare plan, beneficiaries pay 25 percent of the price of their branded medicines until they spend $ 5,100 on their own costs. Once patients reach this threshold, the catastrophic portion of their coverage begins, and their commitment drops to 5 percent. But it never disappears.

This ongoing 5% strikes hard for people like Gervich, who takes expensive medicines.

His 40-milligram dose of Copaxone costs about $ 75,000 annually, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In January, Gervich paid $ 1,800 for the drug and $ 900 more in February. Discounts that drug manufacturers need to provide to participants in Part D were also part of his expenses. (Read more later.) In March he had reached the $ 5,100 threshold, which brought him catastrophic coverage. For the remainder of the year, he owes $ 295 a month for this medicine until the January cycle begins again.

This $ 295 is far from the approximately $ 6,250 monthly Copaxone price without insurance. Together with the $ 2,700 he had already paid before his catastrophic reporting occurred, the additional $ 2,950 he owed this year is not a small amount. And that requires that he does not need any other medication.

"I feel I'm being financially punished for a chronic illness," he says. He had considered stopping Copaxone to save money.

His medication bill is one reason why Gervich has not retired yet, adding that limiting his expenses every year would "definitely help". [19659008MedikamentewieCopaxonediedieAuswirkungenderKrankheitmodifizierenkönnenhabenindenletztenJahreneinensteilenPreisanstiegerlebtsagtBariTalentestellvertretenderVizepräsidentfürAdvocacybeiderNationalMultipleSklerosisSocietyDrogendievorfünfJahrenjährlich60000Dollargekostethabenkostenjetzt90000DollarsagtsieMitdiesenSummenwerdenMedicarebeneficiaries"injedemFalleinekatastrophaleDeckungerfahren"[] 19,659,008 special treatment for multiple sclerosis, cancer and other diseases – defined by Medicare than those that cost more than 670 dollars a month – account for more According to a report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an impartial Agency, which advises Congress on the program, accounts for more than 20 percent of total expenditures in Part D before 2010, approximately 6 percent.

Just over 1 million Medicare beneficiaries in Part D plans who did not receive low-income subsidies resulted in drug costs that plunged them into catastrophic coverage in 2015 – more than twice as much as in 2007, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"When the drug delivery was made" 5 percent was probably not that big of a deal, "says Juliette Cubanski, Deputy Director of the Kaiser Family Foundation's Medicare Policy program," Now we have such expensive medicines, and many of them are included in Part D – where many expensive medicines used to be anticancer drugs "administered in doctors' offices and covered by other parts of Medicare.

A cap on Medicare drug benefit capping is different from other coverages, according to the Affordable Care Act the maximum amount that someone typically owes for uncovered medicines and other medical benefits this year is $ 7,900, and plans typically pay 100 percent of the cost of the customer.

The Medicare program has no cap on spending on part A or B, which cover hospital and outpatient services, but beneficiaries may purchase additional Medigap plans, some of which pay co-insurance and set limits on out-of-pocket expenses. However, Medigap plans do not cover part D prescription plans.

The counterweight to the government's proposal to introduce a spending cap on prescription drugs is another proposal that could increase the drug costs of many beneficiaries. 19659008] Currently, brand name medicines received by participants receive a 70 percent discount from manufacturers when Medicare beneficiaries have accumulated at least $ 3,820 in drug costs and up to $ 5,100 in cost of sales. These rebates are applied to the total expenses of the beneficiaries, leading them to catastrophic cover more quickly.

According to the administration's proposal, manufacturer discounts would no longer be treated in this way. The government says it would help drive patients to cheaper generic medicines.

Nevertheless, the beneficiaries would have to pay more out of their own pocket to reach the catastrophic spending threshold. Fewer people would therefore likely reach the catastrophic level of coverage at which they could benefit from an expenditure ceiling.

"Our concern is that some people will pay more out of pocket to reach the $ 5,100 threshold and drug limit," said Keysha Brooks-Coley, vice president of federal affairs for the Cancer Action Network of the American Cancer Society.

"It's a kind of mixed bag," Cubanski says about the proposed calculation change. "There are savings for some people" that reach the catastrophic coverage phase. "But many will incur higher costs."

For some people, especially cancer patients who take chemotherapy pills, the lack of a pharmaceutical drug limit in Part D may seem particularly unfair.

These innovative, targeted oral chemotherapies and other drugs tend to be expensive and Medicare beneficiaries often reach the catastrophic threshold, says Brooks-Coley.

a Medicare patient who lives in Haslett, Michigan, takes Ibrance, a pill once a day, to control the breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Although the drug has helped her cancer go into remission, she may never be free from a financial commitment to the expensive drug.

Armstrong-Bolle paid $ 2,200 for the drug in January and February of last year. When she entered the catastrophic coverage of her Part D plan, the cost dropped to $ 584 per month. Armstrong-Bolle's husband died last year and she used the money from his life insurance policy to cover her medication bill.

This year, a patient assistance program covered the first months of co-insurance. This money will run low next month, and she owes her another $ 584.

If she received traditional drug infusions instead of oral medications, her treatment would fall under Part B of the program and her co-insurance payments could be covered.

"It just does not seem to be fair," she says.

Kaiser Health News, a non-profit news service, is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Neither KHN nor KFF are affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. Michelle Andrews is on Twitter: @ Mandrews110 .


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