Sharp Rise in Medicare Drug Costs

Author: Steve Winn
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Amid rising public concern about prescription drug costs, new federal data show that Medicare spending on drugs rose by more than 17 percent from 2013 to 2014 — even though claims increased by only 3 percent.

The 17 percent increase, which brought total Medicare drug spending to $121 billion in 2014, is well above the 12.6 percent increase that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reported for total public and private prescription drug spending in the United States during the same period.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the Medicare data last week. It marked the second annual release of data on drugs that were paid for under Medicare’s Part D Prescription Drug Program.

With the aging population and rising health costs, Medicare spending is a key factor in the fiscal difficulties facing the federal government. Although many older Americans believe they have fully paid for their Medicare benefits, these benefits are in fact heavily subsidized by general federal tax revenue.

Finding responsible ways to tame prescription drug costs in Medicare and elsewhere is clearly a key challenge for the country. As HHS warned earlier this year: “Expenditures on prescription drugs are rising and are projected to continue to rise faster than overall health spending . . . ”

External links:
Release of New Prescription Drug Cost Data (CMS)
Trends in Prescription Drug Spending (HHS)

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