Monthly premiums for stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plans will likely fall next year as a number of sponsors consolidate offerings into lower-cost plans, according to a study released Monday by Avalere Health.
After analyzing data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the health care advisory firm estimated that average premiums would fall by 2% to $38.95, from $39.88 in 2014.
As premiums decline, Avalere warns, Medicare Part D sponsors “may be shifting more cost-sharing responsibilities to beneficiaries.” For example, the proportion of prescription drug plans with zero deductibles in 2015 will drop to 42% from 47% in 2014.
In addition, Part D sponsors “continue to move away” from offering coverage in the drug-coverage gap, or donut hole, as the Affordable Care Act gradually closes the gap. Some 74% of such plans will not offer coverage of drugs in the gap next year, Avalere said.
Avalere noted a wide variance among the top plans. For example, a consolidated plan from Aetna, called Aetna Medicare Rx Saver, will reduce premiums by 31% to $24.46, while WellCare Health‘s Classic plan will go up by 52% to $31.46.
The two most expensive plans are Humana Enhanced at $52.81, up 11% from 2014, and the AARP MedicareRx Preferred from UnitedHealth at $50.15, up 16% over 2014, Avalere said. The latter plan is also the largest by number of enrollments, at nearly 3.8 million.
Humana also has among two of the lowest-priced 2015 plans: the Humana Preferred Rx Plan at $26.40 and Humana’s Wal-Mart Rx Plan at $15.67.
The second largest plan by enrollment (at nearly 2.5 million), SilverScript Choice, will see average premiums fall by 21% in 2015 to $23.16, Avalere said. SilverScript Choice is offered by SilverScript Insurance, a CVS Caremark company, part of CVS Health Another plan from UnitedHealth, the AARP MedicareRx Saver Plus, will have an average premium of $28, Avalere said.
As for Medicare Advantage plans, Avalere found that the number of those plans will drop 3% amid continued government reimbursement cutbacks.