Today’s New York Times carries a story about the rising costs of prescription drugs — even for people who have health insurance. The gist of it is that insurance carriers are raising the co-pay amount for the most expensive and popular drugs. Here are excerpts:
Health insurance companies are rapidly adopting a new pricing system for very expensive drugs, asking patients to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for prescriptions for medications that may save their lives or slow the progress of serious diseases.
With the new pricing system, insurers abandoned the traditional arrangement that has patients pay a fixed amount, like $10, $20 or $30 for a prescription, no matter what the drug’s actual cost. Instead, they are charging patients a percentage of the cost of certain high-priced drugs, usually 20 to 33 percent, which can amount to thousands of dollars a month.
The system means that the burden of expensive health care can now affect insured people, too.
No one knows how many patients are affected, but hundreds of drugs are priced this new way. They are used to treat diseases that may be fairly common, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, hepatitis C and some cancers. There are no cheaper equivalents for these drugs, so patients are forced to pay the price or do without.
But the new system sticks seriously ill people with huge bills, said James Robinson, a health economist at the University of California, Berkeley. “It is very unfortunate social policy,” Dr. Robinson said. “The more the sick person pays, the less the healthy person pays.”
Traditionally, the idea of insurance was to spread the costs of paying for the sick.