A study out of Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has shown that rising medical costs could be hurting many needy patients. As medical bills continue to increase, and the price of medications rises with it, more responsibility is placed on patients to help cover the costs. For some patients, they can’t cover these bills, and it comes at the cost of their health.
The university did two separate studies that looked at cost-sharing arrangements and access to life savings drugs for any with a chronic condition or disease. These drugs are vital for patients’ long-term health and wellness. In many cases, without these drugs, their standard of living would be drastically reduced, or their lifespan would be shortened considerably.
One of the studies examined the connection between out-of-pocket expenses and the typical use of “specialty drugs”. Specialty drugs are medications that have special instructions for handling and administration to help treat severe diseases. Because of the special requirements for these medicines and the intense chemicals to make them, they are expensive to fill, and most of them don’t have any cost-effective alternatives.
Through the years, insurance companies have been shifting more of the costs towards the patients. For some patients, they can afford to pay for these treatments, but other patients are feeling the effects of the cost shifting. The study looked at analyses of specialty drug costs for three of the most prominent conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.
The researchers also looked at the connection between out-of-pockets costs and treatment of Medicare Part D enrollees that were diagnosed with leukemia from 2011 to 2013. For the condition, most Part D enrollees were paying $2,600 for their medications every 30-days. For patients that didn’t receive any additional help from low-income, the high out-of-pocket expenses caused them to not fill their prescriptions. Of the patients that had massive out-of-pocket fees, 21% of them have started their treatments within the first month. For patients had much lower costs, 53% of those patients had started treatments in the first month.
The study found very similar results for any Medicare enrollees with rheumatoid arthritis. For patients that weren’t receiving low-income help, they paid over $400 for 30-days of medicine, on the other side, people that were receiving assistance paid $5 for the same treatments. When looking at the frequency of the patients that used the medications, 61% of enrollees that had to pay over $400 actually fill a prescription.
As you know, drug plans can help offset these costs, but you’ll still have to pay out-of-pocket expenses until you meet the annual limit, which is what these studies looked at. Many patients couldn’t afford to start the treatments to even reach their limit.
For many Medicare enrollees, many can’t afford these treatments, which has noticeable effects on their health. Anyone that can’t fill their prescriptions is going to have adverse effects caused by not taking the medication that their condition requires. The researchers from the study suggest that one possible solution is that the initial treatment price for these conditions should be lowered. This can help these patients afford the huge price tag of their medications without having to sacrifice their health because of finances.
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