Soaring drug prices drove Medicare, Medicaid spending in 2015

December 28, 2016

medical bills health care costsWe know consumers have been hit hard by rising prescription drug prices. New data show how those prices also affected government health care programs and which drugs had the most impact.

Harvoni, a Hepatitis C treatment, and Lantus, a form of insulin, led Medicare spending in 2015, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicare spent more than $11 billion on the two drugs. Both were also in the top five for Medicaid spending last year, according to USA Today.

In all, the data show Medicare spent $137.4 billion on drugs covered by its prescription drug benefit in 2015. About $8.7 billion was spent on drugs that had price increases of more than 25 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Many price increases exceeded 25 percent. For example, anti-anxiety medication Ativan increased in price by 1,264 percent between 2014 and 2015 for Medicaid patients. In all, the data show 20 drugs more than doubled in price in the Medicaid database, including nine generic drugs.

Whether you’re insured by Medicare, Medicaid or  private insurance, here are some tips for lowering your prescription drug costs:

  • Talk with your doctor about whether a generic or lower-cost alternative would work just as well as what you’re taking or have been prescribed
  • Review your prescriptions with your doctor every six months to eliminate unnecessary drugs
  • Ask your pharmacy to match competitors’ prices

To learn more about what’s driving the cost of prescription medications, check out the “High RX Costs” issues page on the Voices for Affordable Health website.