PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Medicare Drug Prices Much Higher Than Other Countries and Other Federal Programs, According to New Policy Paper

To hear it from the pharmaceutical industry, Medicare Part D, the federal program that helps American seniors and the disabled cover medication costs, is a highly popular, successful, low-cost program. That’s bunk. According to a new paper, written by authors Marc-Andrew Gagon, PhD. and Sidney Wolfe, MD (Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration and Public Citizen, respectively), drug prices covered under Medicare Part D are wildly inflated compared to drug prices in all other countries. Ok. We knew that already. That’s why seniors continue to import medication from other countries! But seriously, this report includes fresh data and critical analysis to reminds us, and hopefully convince Congress, that not only are we paying too much as taxpayers and consumers but Americans often cannot afford to take prescribed medication at all, and that leads to more hospitalizations and higher healthcare costs.

We’ve noted on many occasions the government’s survey data showing that about five million Americans import prescription drugs for personal use due to cost. About 750,000 are seniors, most who are subject to the coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole” of Part D, which, despite improvements under Obamacare, still leads to millions of seniors struggling to afford medication. Their decision to buy more affordable medication internationally makes sense. According to the new report, even the rebated brand name drugs under Part D are almost twice (198%) the cost paid in countries that make up the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – the most advanced economies.

The report is called “Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall: Medicare Part D pays needlessly high brand-name drug prices compared with other OECD countries and U.S. government programs.” You can find it here. (more…)

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Reflections on Medicare Part D as 2015 Sign-Ups End – A Bittersweet Story for American Seniors and Taxpayers

A Bittersweet Prescription

A Bittersweet Prescription

OPEN enrollment for Medicare Part D drug plans ended this past Sunday, but my thoughts about them linger. Our website received about 150 ratings of part D plans in 2014 – most of them highly critical, and some of them downright scathing! Whether it’s a plan’s horrible customer service, lack of coverage of many brand name drugs, or dropped coverage, we’re hearing from many irate seniors. At the same time, some studies have shown most seniors are happy with their plans. Why all the contradictions about Part D? To understand, please join me on a trip down Part D memory lane.

When was founded in 2002, American seniors did not have pharmacy benefit plans through Medicare. While most seniors had some drug coverage through private health insurance or Medicaid, 25% were without any drug coverage and, thus, vulnerable to a pharmacy’s highest retail price. Just eight months after our website launched in April 2003, Congress passed and the president signed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA), which created a pharmacy benefit opportunity for all Medicare enrollees known as Part D.

It’s amazing and sad to report that, today, the problem of high drug prices for Americans overall is worse than the problems existing before the MMA was born. In 2001, the Commonwealth Fund reported that 28 million Americans did not fill a prescription due to cost. That number shot up to 50 million Americans in 2012!


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Why You Should Tell Seniors to Get On the Net

The Internet offers almost everything, from news on sports and politics to forums and games. A new study from the Pew Research Center suggests that the Internet may even be useful in improving health outcomes. Make no mistake, the study doesn’t say that Internet access and use makes you healthier, but it does find that Americans with chronic conditions are more likely than regular Internet users to seek out information about their health. Specifically, that means gathering information online about medical issues, consulting online reviews about drugs and other treatments, and reading or watching something online about some else’s personal health experience.

The problem is that people with chronic conditions are less likely to be using the internet in the first place. Only 72% of adults with chronic conditions use the internet, compared to 89% of adults with no chronic conditions. Part of this gap is due to the fact that older Americans are more likely to have a chronic condition and also less likely to use the Internet. Only 53% (and growing) of seniors are online, compared to 85% of all Americans. It seems that the group who could make the best use of internet resources is those least likely to access them. One company’s newsletter suggests that getting Americans with chronic conditions online will help them get facts about their condition, prepare them to discuss data with their doctor, and also look for others who share their conditions.

Here at PharmacyChecker, we know that greater internet access will also help more consumers save money on their medication. We hope that Pew or other research organizations continue to study the effects of the internet and internet access on health, especially toward the goal of helping Americans find affordable healthcare, which has proven to improve health outcomes.


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