Sunday, March 05, 2006

Media Finally Catches On To Loss of Patient Assistance Programs

Much of the factual information posted here comes from the news media, but sometimes we are ahead of them. In discussing the Medicare prescription drug program, I have warned multiple times (starting last fall, and most recently here) that the program would lead to higher costs for many people on Medicare due to no longer receiving free medications from pharmaceutical companies through patient assistance programs. AP caught on to this today. Most of these people do qualify for assistance which provides the Medicare benefits at a discounted cost, but I am finding that many patients are winding up with higher out of pocket costs than previously due to stricter criteria for these benefits than were present in the patient assistance programs.

Now that the media has caught on to this, perhaps they will start to put together the full picture as to how prescription drug program was designed to be a financial windfall for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries rather than to benefit Medicare beneficiaries. Besides receiving payment for medications which they previously provided free through patient assistance programs, pharmaceutical companies are also receiving increased income due to the inability of Medicare programs to negotiate lower fees. The bulk of those signing up for the program previously qualified to receive their medications through Medicaid programs which did negotiate lower prices. The insurance industry benefits from subsidies to Medicare HMO’s which cost more than the government-run program to provide health care, despite cherry picking healthier patients.


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