FLASHBACK: McConnell Predicted Health Law Would Increase Prescription Drug Costs

mcconnell_cnn_smallWhen HHS sent out the first round of rebate checks to seniors who fall into the so-called doughnut hole of Medicare Part D, Republicans accused the administration of “hiding the whole truth” and argued that prescription drug costs would still increase for seniors. “What the administration, however, will not mention at today’s event is that for every senior who gets a check, more than three other seniors will see an increase in their prescription drug insurance premiums,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in early June. He went further: “The reason for this is that the health care bill Democrats forced on Americans earlier this year requires higher government mandated minimum standards for everyone. So those who opted for anything below that minimum will now see their premiums go up. And the number of seniors in this category far, far outnumbers those getting a check.”

At the time, questioned McConnell’s assertion, pointing to a CBO report which found that premiums would increase by “about 4%” in 2011, but “beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs apart from those premiums would fall, on average, as would their overall out-of-pocket drug spending including premiums.” Yesterday, the CMS further disproved McConnell’s predictions. According to the agency, most seniors will pay about the same for prescription premiums in 2011, while those with the highest costs will pay less:

The average monthly premium charged by Medicare drug plans for standard coverage will rise to an estimated $30 in 2011, an increase of $1 over 2010, or about 3 percent, said Donald Berwick, Medicare administrator. …Nonetheless, seniors with high drug costs can look forward to a noticeable improvement next year.

That is because the new health care law will begin to close the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole. Medicare recipients in the gap will get a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs and 7 percent on generics. The discounts will gradually increase until the gap finally closes in 2020.

Republicans are still dedicated to repealing the drug rebates, however, and have described the checks as “a colossal waste of money” that the country can’t afford.