Struggling to afford pharmaceuticals and medications is a problem for many Americans. This year, the cost of medications is expected to rise, according to a report published by the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. The National Trends in Prescription Drug Expenditures Report for 2014, written by a team led by Dr. Glen T. Schumock, projects costs to increase by three to five percent. While this is smaller than the average 12% increase that typically reported each year, the increase in cost still makes it difficult for many people to afford the medications they need.
“Our projections for 2014 indicate a clear reversal of the downward growth in prescription drug expenditures we have seen over the last several years,” said Schumock.
More than 10% of U.S. health care expenditures are accounted for by prescription drugs, and recent trends have shown a decrease in spending. In fact, last year, spending grew just .7% in the 12-month period that concluded at the end of September. But this year, that trend is expected to change.
“Drug expenditure trends will remain dynamic, and so health systems will need to carefully monitor local drug use patterns,” Schumock added.
Obama’s overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system could play a major role in the shift. The ban on discriminatory health insurance practices that work against the sick have not stopped insurance companies from increasing up-front charges on the expensive drugs needed for chronic conditions. Some insurance marketplaces require consumers to pay up to half the cost of their specialty drugs, which can cost a staggering $8,000 a month.
“Research shows that spending on specialty drugs is expected to significantly increase. Therefore, any discussion of prescription drug coverage must also include a focus on the direct link between rising prescription drug prices and consumer cost sharing,” said Clare Krusing, spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans.
The reality of the American health care system is that it is competitive and run like a business. With profit-sharing and investors to worry about, insurance companies have to stay profitable, which means high costs for unhealthy individuals, even if they are not able to receive health care.
“The Affordable Care Act is great,” said Dr. Patience White, a rheumatologist and vice president for public health policy and advocacy at the Arthritis Foundation. “Insurance companies now have to take people with chronic illness. But they have investors and can’t lose money. That’s the way American healthcare is.”
Not every American consumer with a preexisting condition has suffered as a result of the Affordable Care Act, which was introduced in 2010. As David Morgan notes in Reuters, there have been both “winners” and “losers.” Hopefully, even if prices do continue to go up, the majority of Americans will come out on the winning side.