Prescription Drug Costs: The Bane of Medicare Beneficiaries




Ask the average senior what concerns them the most about health care and it’s likely he or she will mention the stratospheric rise of prescription drug costs.

Recently, Dr. Patrick H Conway, a deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services appeared before the Senate Finance Committee announcing that the Obama administration will tweak it’s plan to curb the growth in spending the government faces due to the rising costs of medications.

Last March, the Administration vowed to look at alternative ways to reduce spending while still allowing patient access to the most effective treatments available. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, spending on prescription drugs in the US reached $457 billion in 2015. This estimate was significantly higher than previously thought, because the latter figure includes the drugs that doctors administer themselves in doctors’ offices and hospitals, such as cancer drugs and drugs for rheumatoid arthritis and macular degeneration. Former estimates left these costs out of the equation.

Stemming rising drug costs — hard task that, and apparently the Administration has come to realize that this is the case: hence the plan to, uh, well “tweak” the plan.

Although Conway told the Committee that the plan will proceed in “some form” — he also tried to allay seniors’ fears by conveying that officials will try to ensure that “no harm” will come to patients as a result of spending modifications.

However, he admitted that patients who receive treatment directly from their physicians — treatments that are covered by Medicare Part B — may still face “significant out-of-pocket” expenses.

A major component of the plan will consist of encouraging physicians to use lower-cost therapies. It remains to be seen whether or not such encouragement will actually result in “no harm” to the patient.

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