AARP VI has partnered with the VI Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs to monitor the prices on the top ten medications most commonly utilized by the territory’s Medicare beneficiaries. Originally, AARP’s plan was to collect local data and compare how local VI prices compare to stateside prices. The local data would facilitate the VI comparing itself to other small communities, and to identify how quickly costs rise here in the territory. Additionally, because there is a law already in place that monitors the price of groceries in a “foodbasket,” prescription prices could also be monitored.
The information would guard against unnecessary price increases after emergencies and help make informed decisions about medication purchases. VI seniors would have a resource to stretch their finances just a little further.
On the national scene, AARP’s Rx Watchdog Report documents that prescriptions drug prices have increased by nearly 9 percent over the last year. While the DLCA prescription Drug Monitoring program has not been in existence long enough for AARP VI to make comparisons, some things of interest have been identified. Much to AARP VI’s satisfaction and good news for VI members, ongoing monitoring of drug prices throughout the territory has indicated that most VI pharmacies tend to hover around a particular price range for each drug, and price changes from month to month have not varied significantly over time.
However, recently AARP’s Rx Watchdog Report for May 2010 demonstrates some scary national trends among some of America’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Nationally, during the same period that elected officials debated how to make health care affordable, drug manufacturers steadily increased the cost of name brand and specialty drug prescriptions. To date, prices for medications have, on average, risen by more than 9.7 percent in just the 12 months between March 2009 and March 2010. Although this increase hasn’t been seen locally, clearly this trend is not good for VI consumers.
But nationally there is good news. The Rx Watchdog report found that generic drugs dropped in price by 9.7 percent. What does this mean for the ‘average consumer’? That depends on whether the consumer buys generic or name brand medications.
By selecting generic drugs, consumers may benefit substantially from reduced costs while still receiving the quality medication they need. But, higher name brand prices may raise their Medicare beneficiary co-payment costs and sooner bring on Medicare Part D’s doughnut hole where consumers will be responsible for the total cost of these higher priced medications.
The Medicare Part D doughnut hole will become permanently closed by 2019. However, AARP questions that this might not happen if drug prices continue to rise and legislation does not emerge to address the issue. Even though the new health care reform is law, you’ll continue to see AARP advocate for Congress to consider new ways, like drug importation, to help keep drug prices as low as possible. If you are having problems with the cost of your prescription drugs, be sure to visit www.doughnuthole.aarp.org and see if you can reduce the price you pay for prescription medications.