Medicare beneficiaries won't see an increase in the average price of Medicare prescription drug premiums next year, HHS officials said last week.
No hike expected in Medicare drug plan averages
In 2012, the average Medicare prescription drug plan premium will be about $30, compared with an average premium of $30.76 in 2011, according to HHS. CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick said in a conference call with reporters that the average premium is about 44% lower than what had been estimated in 2003.
The news was part of a larger announcement from HHS about the number of Medicare beneficiaries who are taking advantage of drug discounts and free preventive services because of last year’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. According to HHS, about 17 million Americans, or roughly 51% of those with original Medicare, have received preventive services at no cost from January through July. Meanwhile, about 900,000 Americans who reached the doughnut hole—a term to describe the Medicare part D coverage gap—have received a 50% discount on their prescription drugs from January through June of this year.
In that same call, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said nearly one in four seniors have reported skipping doses, cutting pills in half or not filling prescriptions because of cost. That’s why, she said, the Affordable Care Act “took action” last year by providing about 4 million beneficiaries in the doughnut hole with rebate checks of $250 and this year offering a 50% discount on prescription drugs. “And the Affordable Care Act will fill in the doughnut hole until that gap is closed by 2020,” Sebelius said.
Berwick and Cheri Rice, director of CMS’ Medicare Payment Plan Group, said competition among Medicare Part D plans, increased generic drug use and greater transparency for consumers are reasons why the CMS expects lower Medicare prescription drug premiums in 2012.
“Medicare beneficiaries will have more affordable prescription drug coverage next year as a result of vigorous competition in the Part D program and Medicare drug plans’ efforts to encourage seniors to choose the most affordable medicines,” Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement. “Medicare drug plans have a proven track record of providing innovative, affordable prescription drug benefits that meet the unique needs of seniors in the Part D program,” she said. “Taxpayers are also saving billions of dollars as the total cost of the program continues to be far below original projections.”
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