In the first full year after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect, there has been much interest in its impact on out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs. And reviews have been mixed.
Costs Decline for Many
As a whole, individuals did pay less for their needed medications last year. This decline has been noted as the first on record, and it was due in large part to the new coverage gap (“doughnut hole”) subsidy that was created for seniors who participate in Medicare’s Part D prescription drug plan.
In fact, these Medicare Part D plan participants saw their drug-related copayments decrease by more than $2.00, from an average amount in 2010 of nearly $26.00 to an average cost of $23.31 in 2011. And in total, the 3.5 million people enrolled in the Medicare program saved more than $2 billion on prescription drugs in the past year. As of early 2012, approximately 100,000 people have also received close to $92 million in prescription drug discounts.
Future Costs May Drop
Because of this, future costs to the government could also be lowered. One reason for this is that when seniors are able to take their needed medications, they are less likely to require hospitalization and other costly medical treatment. This is especially the case for those with chronic ailments such as diabetes and heart disease.
Yet while overall nationwide drug spending was down in 2011, thanks in large part to the provisions in the ACA, prescription drug costs for those aged 19 to 25 actually increased.
Still, many people believe that prescription drug cost savings are among the first tangible benefits of the new healthcare reform.
Other Changes in 2014
Other healthcare-related changes that are part of the ACA – including the guarantee that all Americans may obtain health insurance coverage – are slated to go into effect in 2014.