Leigh Purvis Outlines the Burdens of High Drug Costs on Medicare Beneficiaries

April 20, 2018

Leigh Purvis, director of Health Services Research at AARP Public Policy Institute, addresses the burdens of high prescription drug costs on Medicare beneficiaries.

Leigh Purvis, director of Health Services Research at AARP Public Policy Institute, addresses the burdens of high prescription drug costs on Medicare beneficiaries.

Transcript

How does the burden of high prescription drug costs among the Medicare population differ from the general population?

I think the biggest difference that we’re seeing in terms of high cost drugs for Medicare beneficiaries is that under Medicare Part D there is a lot of coinsurance which is where they are responsible for a percentage of the drug cost as opposed to a flat copayment, and that type of payment structure hasn’t stretched too other forms of insurance yet. So, we are seeing Part D beneficiaries being responsible for much more of the cost than we see in other forms of insurance.

How do Medicare beneficiaries usually handle being faced with the donut hole after coming employer-sponsored insurance, where they didn’t have to deal with it?

Unfortunately, we see a lot of people either walking away from the pharmacy counter or trying to find other ways of getting their prescription drugs which is a problem because they are obviously operating outside of the system or they’re not treating the conditions that need to be treated, and that can ultimately lead to higher health care costs down the road.

What impact do you see new treatments that are very effective, but very expensive, having on Medicare and patients?

I think both of them are being negatively affected. Innovation is great, but it’s only great if you can afford to use it and, unfortunately, that’s kind of the trade-off that we are facing right now and we want to make sure that we are having access to these innovative therapies. The Medicare program is a tax-payer funded program and the more it’s spending on these types of products, the more tax payers are spending on these types of products, the more beneficiaries that are being asked to spend on these types of products. Unfortunately, I think about these groups, MedPack included, that have come to the conclusion that it’s really unsustainable. It pushes us to a precipice where people can’t access the drugs that they need.