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Study finds major variation in Medicare Rx drug costs

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Soon, Congress may vote on whether to require the Medicare system to negotiate lower prices for medicines taken by millions of seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.

That change and others might save some seniors a lot of money, suggests a new study from the University of Michigan Medical School. It finds tremendous variation in what Medicare enrollees in different states pay for the same medications, even with the lowest-cost Part D plans.

In fact, two people taking the same drugs but living in different states could face costs that differed by thousands of dollars even if each had chosen the lowest-cost plan available to them. And within a state, the difference in a person's costs for the same drugs could top $10,000 a year or more, depending on which plan he or she chose.

Such wide variation in prices means that Medicare prescription drug plans are substantially more affordable in some states than in others, the authors conclude. In all, depending on which medicines they're taking and which plan they're in, people in one state might spend 10 percent of their annual income to pay for prescription drug coverage premiums and co-pays, while someone taking the same medicines in another state would spend 20 percent of their income, the study finds.

The difference in plan costs appears to have little to do with the cost of living in different states, the researchers found. In fact, some of the states with the lowest cost-of-living-adjusted average incomes had some of the highest drug plan costs.

The researchers, led by U-M physician and health care policy researcher Matthew Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., made the findings using Medicare's own Web-based calculator for prescription drug plan costs. They analyzed every plan in every state for four real patients who had typical ailments and medication regimens, and looked at what the plans would cost, considering plan premiums, coinsurance,
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
10-Jan-2007


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