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In Medicare “Doughnut Hole” 3.4 Million Stop Taking Their Medication

New research shows that the Medicare drug plan “doughnut hole” seriously endangers not only the pocketbook, but also the health of our nation’s seniors and other Medicare enrollees. Two separate studies released this month show that patients who reach the coverage gap are more likely to stop taking their medication than they are to switch to a cheaper drug: the Public Library of Science published Changes in Drug Utilization During a Gap in Insurance Coverage: An Examination of the Medicare Part D Coverage Gap, and the Kaiser Family Foundation Program on Medicare Policy published Understanding the Effects of the Medicare Part D Coverage Gap in 2008 and 2009.

The putative reason for the coverage gap is that the threshold will teach consumers to be aware of drug costs. Jennifer Polinski, ScD, MPH, the author of PLoS study says, “there is an expectation that people will seek less expensive drug options when they enter the donut hole.” However, these studies reveal that this is clearly not the case. Research from 2006 and 2007 shows that beneficiaries were 40% less likely to switch a drug if they did not receive financial assistance, as opposed to those beneficiaries who did. Likewise, the Kaiser study reveals that about 3.4 million, or 12%, of Part D enrollees who reached the gap in 2008 and 2009 discontinued their medication. (more…)

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New AARP Report Shows Dramatic Brand Name Drug Price Hikes

AARP, the leading advocacy group for America’s seniors, released a new study confirming that brand name drug prices were way up – 8.3 % higher on average – in 2009. These large increases occurred during a year  when the consumer price index was actually down by .4% . The report also finds that over the past five years, brand-name drug costs have increased by 41.5%, during which inflation only rose by 13%. Noteworthy in this report is that its authors, responding to pharmaceutical industry critics who contested that prior AARP reports only looked at manufacturer prices, derived the current findings by calculating the average retail prices of over 200 popular brand name drugs.

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