The Costs of a Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit

Published in: Topics in Economic Analysis and Policy, v. 2, no. 1, art. 3, 2002, p. 1-14

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2002

by Dana P. Goldman, Geoffrey F. Joyce, Jesse D. Malkin

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Medicare does not have an outpatient prescription drug benefit. Recently, there has been renewed interest in adding a prescription drug benefit to the program. In this paper, the authors present a microsimulation model to predict drug expenditures in 2001 for a representative cohort of Medicare beneficiaries under the status quo and three different plans: (1) a catastrophic plan modeled on the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act (PL 100-360), which was passed in 1988 but repealed one year later after higher-income Medicare beneficiaries protested new premiums, (2) a zero-deductible plan that caps out-of-pocket expenses at $4,000 per year, and (3) a zero-deductible plan that does not cap out-of-pocket expenses. They use data from a representative sample of Medicare Part B beneficiaries from the 1995 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) Cost and Use file. Under the status quo, drug expenses average $1,459 per beneficiary, out-of-pocket costs average $646, and 8.2% of the population has very high expenses (defined as more than $2,000 out-of-pocket for drugs). Under a catastrophic plan, average annual drug expenses are $1,344, out-of-pocket costs are $645, and 6.8% of beneficiaries have very high expenses. Under a zero-deductible plan that does not cap out-of-pocket expenses average annual drug expenses are $1,395, out-of-pocket expenses are $459, and 5.3% of beneficiaries would have very high expenses. Under a zero-deductible plan that caps out-of-pocket expenses at $4,000 per year, average annual drug expenses are $1,414, out-of-pocket expenses are $442, and 5.5% of beneficiaries have very high expenses.

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