WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE 28/WYOU 22 EYEWITNESS NEWS) — Making ends meet on a fixed budget is tough enough for many older Americans. It’s even worse if they must purchase brand-name prescription medication.
Prices keep going up on hundreds of those widely used drugs. A big part of the problem is there’s nothing in the U.S. health care system to prevent big pharma from how much it increases the price of already-costly medications. An advocacy group for seniors is trying to change that.
“Research has consistently shown that Americans pay drug prices that are three to four times higher, if not more, than other countries,” said Leigh Purvis, Director of Health Care Costs & Access, AARP.
The new AARP Rx Price Watch report shows retail prices for 260 widely used, brand-name prescription drugs increased by 2.9 percent in 2020. That’s more than twice the general inflation rate of 1.3 percent. The trend of prescription price increases outpacing the inflation rate has been happening every year since AARP began tracking drug costs in 2006. The costs call into question affordability for so many seniors.
“They’re taking these high-priced prescription drugs and are finding themselves having to make really tough decisions. You know, do you pay for the prescription drug you need, or do you pay for other important things like food and rent and we really think that isn’t a decision anyone should be having to make,” Purvis said.
It’s a big problem, Purvis says has no one silver bullet solution — but she says there are options.
“One thing that AARP strongly supports is allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices which is something it can’t do right now even though there are tens of millions of beneficiaries in that program. Something else we think is important is getting an out-of-pocket cap, so limiting how much you have to spend under Medicare Part D which is a program that’s really important to our members.”
AARP also urges the federal government to allow inflation-based rebates under Medicare Part D. Medicaid already does by penalizing drug manufacturers who increase their prices faster than inflation. Purvis also urges seniors to not ignore a familiar resource: their local pharmacist.
“They actually have a way to keep an eye on all of the prescription drugs that you’re taking, and they can often point you to less expensive alternatives,” said Purvis.
AARP also recommends looking into Medicare’s extra help program which can cover a lot of your premium and out-of-pocket costs. And make sure you look into programs from the drug manufactures themselves which can save you big if you qualify.