Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Out-of-Pocket Drug Costs Plummet

Out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs has fallen steeply over the past decade. In 2018, those who purchased retail prescription drugs spent a median of $54 for them—42 percent less than the $93 spent in 2009, after adjusting for inflation.

An analysis of retail prescription drug spending based on data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey shows that out-of-pocket spending fell not just at the median, but at every point in the distribution of spending. Even those who spend the most on prescription drugs saw their out-of-pocket costs fall substantially. Those whose spending on retail prescription drugs is at the 95th percentile, for example, saw their annual out-of-pocket costs fall from $1,369 to $945 between 2009 and 2018—a 31 percent decline, after adjusting for inflation. 

Among people aged 65 or older, out-of-pocket spending on retail prescription drugs fell for those on Medicare Part D, for those with private drug insurance, and even for without prescription drug insurance. Older Americans covered by Medicare Part D spent a median of $160 on retail prescription drugs in 2018, down from $341 in 2009, after adjusting for inflation. The elderly with no drug coverage saw their median annual spending fall from $318 in 2009 to $177 in 2018. 

"In recent years overall affordability of retail prescription drugs has not deteriorated, and may have improved," the analysis concludes. 

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Out-of-Pocket Spending for Retail Prescribed Drugs by Age and Type of Prescription Drug Coverage, 2009 to 2018

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