New Obamacare Plans Result in Drug-Cost Sticker Shock

With the rollout of Obamacare, many patients with chronic illnesses are taking advantage of the new healthcare law. However, these patients, who are projected to be some of the biggest beneficiaries of the new initiative, may encounter sticker shock with drug costs. Under the new law, out-of-pocket expenses associated with the new exchanges could vary widely.

The new healthcare act enables patients with pre-existing conditions to obtain affordable coverage. Additionally, these patients can’t be penalized with higher rates than healthier participants. In terms of out-of-pocket expenses, the maximum set for individuals is $6,350, and $12,700 for families. Once these amounts are reached, insurers will then pick up the full tab.

Nevertheless, patients taking costly prescription drugs are more likely to reach these levels fast. While certain medications for serious conditions can cost thousands of dollars a month, some plans under the new exchanges may place as much as 50 percent of the cost on patients. Basically, plans with lower monthly premiums require patients to bear higher portions of drug costs.

In addition to premiums, many other factors impact drug costs for patients. Among these factors is a drug’s tier, or level of coverage. Tiers vary from plan to plan, and can be classified into different categories: generic, brand, preferred and specialty drugs. In order to determine tiers, insurers and drug manufacturers negotiate prices for each particular drug. Drug costs are greatly impacted by these tiers, which can make all the difference in patient costs.

As a result, high price tags and costly co-pays are associated with high-tiered drugs. According to insurance-industry experts, many businesses are anticipating larger numbers of sicker, costlier patients to sign up for the exchanges. This trend could lead to financial troubles if an inadequate number of healthier customers sign-up and balance out those costs. Regardless, insurers are not allowed to impose higher charges on chronically ill patients. Therefore, in order to keep monthly premiums lower, patients are forced to pay more for high-tier drugs.

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