The price of prescription drugs is going up for some patients as
insurance companies pass on extra fees for high-end drugs to the
The cost of prescription medicine would be out of reach for many families if it wasn't for insurance.
"I would be bankrupt, completely," said Kamal Muilenburg, a health care advocate.
But Muilenburg is able to afford her chemo drugs because she is insured and makes a regular co-pay.
"Every health plan has their own set of co-pays. Almost all of them
use three tiers of co-pays so the lowest being the generic," said
That's followed by preferred brand-name drugs, and then non-preferred
brand-name drugs, each requiring it's own gradually rising co-pay
amount. Kamal says some insurance companies have added a fourth payment
tier, not based on a fixed amount, but on a percentage of the actual
cost of the drug, drugs that can add up to tens of thousands of dollars
in a year.
"Well it's sort of a double whammy on those who need it the most.
Because the people who are taking the most expensive drugs tend to be
the ones with serious illnesses, or chronic illnesses, these are drugs
that are keeping them alive today," said Muilenburg.
Some states are trying to cap out-of-pocket expenses for
prescriptions and other medical costs. Medical advocate Muilenburg says
helping families pay for prescriptions will also help them survive.
"And if you don't take these drugs regularly, your cancer comes back, or you get sick, or you die," said Muilenburg.
Those specialty drugs are often used for chronic conditions like
cancer, HIV, MS and kidney disease. According to one report, 57-million
Americans rely on specialty drugs. These medications account for about
one-percent of total drug use, but 17-percent of drug spending.