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Provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) drove out-of-pocket costs down, while increasing drug spending among 19 to 25-year-olds in 2011.
This blog post was written by Ben Comer.
Provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) drove out-of-pocket costs down, while increasing drug spending among 19 to 25-year-olds in 2011, according to research published on Wednesday. The decline observed in overall out-of-pocket spending last year was the “first on record,” and was “largely related to the introduction of the ‘donut-hole’ subsidy for Medicare Part D beneficiaries,” a highly-touted element of the ACA, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. While copays for commercial providers and Medicaid were flat (average commercial plan copays increased by $1.14, to $26.10 in 2011), seniors covered by Medicare Part D got the largest break, with average copays decreasing by $2.66 – from $25.97 in 2010, to $23.31 in 2011 – according to the report.
The dip in copay costs for seniors didn’t translate into an increase in volume for chronic or acute medications, however; in fact, patients 65-years and older reduced their drug usage by 3.1%. Prescription use among the same group declined in 2010 as well, by 2.7%, but the last two years represent an inflection from prior years, when “seniors’ usage of medicines grew on average at 4%,” the report found. College-aged patients (19-24 years old), on the other hand, were the only age group to increase their drug usage, by a modest 2%. That increase “coincides with the first full year of implementation of the provision of the ACA allowing under-26-year-olds to stay on their parents’ health insurance,” according to the report.
Michael Kleinrock, director of research development at the institute, said on a call with reporters that patients over 65 years old are foregoing the medications they use the most. Drug usage for hypertension, the most common disease among this population, decreased more than any other class of drugs. “This correlates strongly with the economy…seniors are on a fixed income, and costs [of living] are rising,” said Kleinrock on the call. Kleinrock called the development a “tipping point,” adding that seniors are resetting their expectations around how often, and under what circumstances, they will visit a doctor.
Per capita figures adjusted for currency changes showed a 0.5% growth in total drug spending in 2011 – to $320 billion. Other fun facts from the report include:
If the Supreme Court decides in favor of the Affordable Care Act, particularly the mandate to buy insurance, the spate of newly insured patients would likely curb the rise in emergency room admissions, and could also turn around the decrease in office visits, which are “the lowest-cost medical interventions,” according to the report.
This blog post originally appeared on the Pharmaceutical Executive blog.