Like those in the rest of America, South Carolina employers and consumers are feeling the sting of rising health care costs — and a big reason is the rising cost of prescription drugs.
A new report in Health Affairs, based on data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), confirms this, finding that health care spending in 2015 increased at a rate of 5.8%, the fastest in eight years.
The report finds that prescription drug costs are continuing to drive the overall cost increases.
"In 2015, total retail prescription drug spending grew 9.0 percent, reaching $324.6 billion, and represented 10 percent of overall health spending," according to the report. "Although slower than the rate of 12.4 percent in 2014, growth in prescription drug spending was faster than that of any other service in 2015."
This report comes a week after health care consultancy Visante released a report finding that at least part of the solution for rising drug costs may lie in the services provided by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).
According to that report, PBMs are generating $941 in prescription drug savings per person for consumers and payers, and for every $1 spent on their services, PBMs reduce costs by $6.
Mark Merritt, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, the trade association for pharmacy benefit managers, echoed the findings of the Visante report.
“PBMs are reducing prescription drug costs for patients while also improving health care quality and outcomes,” said Merritt, who added that these findings contradict some drug manufacturers attempts to shift the blame for rising drug costs to the PBMs.
He also pointed to a national voter survey commissioned by his organization that found a majority of respondents "blame drug companies not only for high drug prices, but also for out-of-pocket costs."
According to that survey, conducted by North Star Opinion Research, three quarters of voters say the cost of prescription drugs is too high, and 55 percent said that drug companies are most to blame for high drug costs. Only 7 percent said that PBMs are most to blame.
“Consumers are well aware drug companies set drug prices and they know higher prices mean higher out-of-pocket costs. No one’s buying the drug companies’ campaign to shift blame to employers, unions, plans, or the PBMs that negotiate discounts on their behalf,” said Merritt.
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