REPORTS SHOW CONFLICTING VIEWS OF NEW MEDICARE PLAN'S IMPACT ON DRUG PRICING
A new report from a pharmaceutical benefit manager group says Medicare enrollees are paying less for drugs through the new Medicare Rx drug benefit, but several government reports released on the same day assert drug prices are actually higher under the new program.
The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) says new research by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) shows prescription costs are lower under the new benefit.
Prices of drugs prescribed through the new benefit are down 27 percent, even more than earlier projections of 15 percent, says PCMA, citing CMS data. Discounts under the new drug benefit are expected to slow prescription drug growth to 7.7 percent in 2006, down from an earlier forecast of 8.1 percent, PCMA said.
However, three reports commissioned by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), including two prepared by the House Committee on Government Reform and one prepared by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), show prescription prices offered by the new Medicare plans are "rising rapidly," the congressman said.
One of the reports, "Medicare Drug Plan Prices are Higher than Medicare Drug Card Prices," shows average drug prices under the Medicare drug plans are 14 percent higher than they were nine months ago during the time that temporary Medicare drug cards were issued. The drug cards were in effect from June 2004 to December 2005, and the Medicare benefit went into effect Jan. 1.
The average price for Zocor, for example, is 27 percent higher under the benefit, while the average price for Protonix is 21 percent higher, according to the report. The authors said price jumps could not be explained by increases in consumer price inflation, (up 2.3 percent during the nine-month period), drug price inflation (up 3.6 percent), or manufacturers' list-price changes (up 6 percent).
The second report, "Medicare Drug Prices Are Increasing Rapidly," finds that prices charged by ten leading Medicare-approved drug plans for the 10 most-used drugs by seniors increased by an average of 4.3 percent from the end of December 2005 to mid-February 2006.
"Medicare Drug Plan Prices are Higher than Medicare Drug Card Prices" is online at http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20060221101849-23735.pdf (http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20060221101849-23735.pdf); "Medicare Drug Plan Prices Are Increasing Rapidly" is online at http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20060221102046-85441.pdf (http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20060221102046-85441.pdf); and "Medicare: Sponsors' Management of the Prescription Drug Discount Card and Transitional Assistance Benefit" is online at http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20060221102410-88196.pdf (http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20060221102410-88196.pdf).