Chronically ill seniors will pay much more out of pocket than the average beneficiary in the new Medicare drug benefit, raising concern about the equity of the benefit's design and whether seniors with high drug costs may continue to skip necessary medications, according to a series of reports in the journal Health Affairs.
According to one study by Bruce Stuart, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore, seniors with diabetes would incur average out-of-pocket costs of $1,581 for prescription drugs while those with mental illness would spend $1,844 on average when the drug benefit takes effect next year. In comparison, the average Medicare beneficiary would spend $722.
Another report found that 26.3% of seniors had skipped medication doses during the past year because of cost. A third report found that despite savings of about 20% as part of the Medicare drug discount card program, seniors still paid on average $1,300 out of pocket for their drugs. The author of the study said that greater efforts to educate seniors about how to use the cards and the benefits of using them are necessary.
View the reports.