Out-of-Pocket Medical Costs on the Rise for People With Insurance
Insured U.S. residents are experiencing more difficulty paying for prescription drugs as higher out-of-pocket costs and a slowing economy "strain family budgets," according to surveys and health care analysts, USA Today reports.
According to the National Patient Advocate Foundation, which helps people pay medical bills, 31% of the 44,729 people the foundation aided in 2007 cited copayments as their top medical-debt problem in 2006, compared with 17% in 2005.
USA Today reports that some people are no longer charged a flat fee for prescription drugs but must contribute a proportion that ranges from 20% to 70% of a drug's cost.
NPAF Executive Director Nancy Davenport-Ennis said, "Some families that have to deal with chronic or critical illness are not in a position to maintain that."
Gary Claxton, a Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of the Foundation's Health Care Marketplace Project, said, "Incomes aren't going up, but copayments are."
USA Today highlights several recent survey findings that show "evidence of increasing problems":
- A recent survey by USA Today, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health found that 13% of insured U.S. residents said paying for drugs is a serious problem, compared with 9% in a 2000 survey;
- An annual survey of employers by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust found that found that copays for generic drugs increased by 38% from 2000 to 2007, while copays for non-preferred brand name drugs increased by 48% during the same period. During the seven-year period, inflation increased by 21%; and
- The employer survey also found that of workers with employer-sponsored drug plans, 7% had coverage requiring special payments for a few types of costly treatments, and that the average cost of those drugs in 2007 was $71 per prescription -- a 20% increase from 2004.
Prescription drugs account for about 10% of all health care spending in the U.S., and drug spending increases faster than inflation in most years, USA Today reports.
Insurers and employers have tried to slow spending growth in part by encouraging the use of less-costly generic drugs.
Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, said, "It's a balance of making sure people have access to the newest developments while ... trying to encourage cost-containment" (Appleby, USA Today, 4/3). 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.