Medicare Shakeup Could Affect Millions

Millions of Americans could benefit from lower prescription drug costs if the budget that President Joe Biden put forth is passed.

The budget, which totals $7.3 trillion, was unveiled last week. In it, the White House is asking for drug plans under Medicare to keep the co-pay prices for some high-cost prescriptions — including those that treat blood pressure and high cholesterol — at $2 or less.

These drugs are currently covered under Medicare Part D.

If the budget is passed with these new rules in place, the costs for these drugs would be lowered beginning on October 1. That’s the date that the budget for fiscal year 2025 goes into effect.

These proposed price caps would be especially beneficial to seniors who live near the poverty level, as the money they spend now on prescription drugs could be spent on groceries, rent and other everyday essentials.

An analysis conducted by Think Advisor revealed that Medicare probably will cost around $839 billion this year. That number could rise to as much as $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years, though, as more Baby Boomers retire.

A separate report conducted by Alliance for Lifetime Income found that about 4.1 million Americans will turn 65 years old this year, and that many will turn 65 every year for the next three years. That will cause quite the strain on Medicare coverage.

The budget proposal that Biden put forward also requests additional funding for Medicare counseling regarding obesity and nutrition, as well as additional quality evaluation metrics for cancer care.

In Medicaid, Biden’s budget would result in an additional $150 billion being spent on adult daycare, home care programs and other community services between 2025 and 2034.

Blood pressure and anti-cholesterol medications are quite expensive for seniors today. The National Council on Aging reported that roughly 25 million people in America over the age of 60 live at or below 250% of the poverty line that’s set by the federal government.

The CEO of Triage Cancer, Monica Fawzy Bryant, told Newsweek:

“High out-of-pocket costs can be difficult for people to afford, especially seniors and people with disabilities. Over the years, we have heard countless stories of people going without their medications, skipping doses or losing their homes because of the high cost of drugs and lack of out-of-pocket maximum in Medicare prescription drug coverage.”

While seniors would seem to welcome the lower cost of prescription drugs, there are often ripple effects that are seen as a result of plans like this. Government regulations can often have effects present themselves down the line that are apparent right away, Chris Westfall, the founder of Senior Savings Network, said.

For instance, Medicare Advantage plans and Part D carriers are “scrambling to figure out how to stay profitable and pass costs to consumers in new ways.”

It’s a careful balance between lowering costs for these prescription drugs and making sure that the carriers of the Medicare plans are still profitable enough to continue operating.