(Washington, DC) – Older Americans overwhelmingly support legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, according to a new survey by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). The online survey, which had over 1,234 participants, found that 88 percent support tying prescription drug prices to what other industrialized countries, such as Great Britain, Canada and Japan, pay for the same drug.
“Reducing the cost of prescription drugs is essential for both Medicare beneficiaries and Medicare’s finances,” says Mary Johnson, a Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). The average monthly Social Security retiree benefit is just $1,552, while spending on prescription drugs is the fastest growing cost that most retirees face in retirement,” she says. Over time, drug costs take a growing portion of Social Security income, because prices are rising several times faster than annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs).
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that H.R. 3, Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, prescription drug price negotiation legislation which is under debate in the House could lower government spending on Part D by $456 billion over a ten year period, but cautioned the estimates are uncertain, especially if price negotiations are implemented differently that the CBO’s interpretation.
Johnson conducts research on the growth of the prices of goods and services that form a major part of a retirees’ household budgets. According to Johnson, Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket spending for prescription drugs was a total cost of $4,097 in 2020 (including what beneficiaries and their drug plans pay). “Although drug plans vary, under the standard Part D benefit, the beneficiary is responsible for about 25% of that amount, and drug plans cover the remaining 75% up to an initial coverage limit which is $4,130 in 2021,” Johnson says.
According to the new survey by The Senior Citizens League, the majority of Medicare beneficiaries (72 percent) report spending for prescription drugs that was less than the Part D initial coverage limit in 2020. But 28 percent of survey participants report a level of monthly drug spending (at least $95 per month and more for co-pays and co-insurance) that puts them at risk of exceeding the Medicare Part D initial coverage limit and hitting the “coverage gap” or “doughnut hole” — the point at which drug costs can be higher than under initial coverage. In addition, one quarter of survey participants, 25 percent, said they postponed filling one or more prescriptions in 2020 due to high cost or shortages. Under current law there is no annual cap on out of pocket spending in Part D, except for the lowest income beneficiaries who qualify for Medicare Extra Help which covers most of their out of pocket costs.
The Senior Citizens League supports legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and limit drug price increases to the rate of inflation.
With 1.2 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of The Retired Enlisted Association. Visit www.SeniorsLeague.org for more information.