HHS Says Premiums for Medicare Drug Benefit Expected To Stay Stable
The agency estimated the average premium next year will be about $30 per month, close to the average $30.76 premium this year. Officials said increasing use of generics and competition between private insurers within the program have helped stabilize premiums. The agency also expects a decrease in certain costs as more top-selling brand-name drugs' patents expire.
However, HHS warned that the 2012 average does not reflect premiums for all individuals (AP/Washington Post, 8/4).
CMS Administrator Donald Berwick said, "Beneficiaries should still carefully compare their current plan's coverage and quality with what is being offered in 2012 when that information becomes available in the fall" (McCarthy, National Journal, 8/4).
HHS Says Health Reform Law Saved Beneficiaries $461M on Drugs
Also on Thursday, the agency announced that Medicare beneficiaries have saved $461 million on prescription drugs because of the federal health reform law, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/4).
Prior to the health reform law, Medicare Part D beneficiaries paid 25% of the cost of their drugs until the total bill reached $2,830. Beneficiaries then paid the full cost of drugs until their total out-of-pocket spending reached $4,550, a gap in coverage known as the "doughnut hole."
The health reform law called for Medicare beneficiaries in 2010 to receive one-time, $250 rebates when they reached the doughnut hole. This year, the rebate was replaced by a 50% discount on brand-name drugs. The overhaul will increase that discount gradually until 2020, when the coverage gap will be closed (California Healthline, 7/27).
HHS said that almost 900,000 beneficiaries have received the discount so far ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.