Substantially more health plans on the federal insurance marketplaces require consumers next year to pay a hefty portion of the cost of the most expensive drugs, changes that analysts say are intended to deter persistently ill patients from choosing their policies.
The class of medicines known as specialty drugs often treat chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, hemophilia, some cancers and hepatitis C. Individual doses can be priced at more than $600. Many newer medicines cost $5,000 to $10,000 a month. That means patients with even a small cost-sharing requirement have to come up with thousands of dollars. For many patients there are no cheaper and equally effective alternatives.
In the four years that the healthcare.gov marketplaces have existed, plans requiring consumers to pay roughly a third or more of the cost of specialty drugs have expanded to 63 percent of all offerings from 37 percent, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.