Here are four key insights about the 2021 drug market, assuming that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains in place:
- Public funds, primarily Medicare and Medicaid, will pay for 44% of all drug spending.
- Insurance purchased via exchanges will be 5% of drug spending.
- The employer-sponsored insurance market will keep shrinking.
- Out-of-pocket spending by consumers will account for an even-smaller part of drug spending.
I once again rely on forecast data from the National Health Expenditure Data Projections page. The economists at CMS graciously provided me with certain unpublished data to compute the sources of payment if the ACA does not go into effect.
Note that I also estimated drug spending via private insurance purchased via exchanges. The PPACA’s growth in coverage is projected to come via state-run Health Insurance Exchanges (HIE), which are mandated to be a state-established governmental agency or nonprofit entity. CMS classifies coverage via HIE as "private insurance."
I find this classification to be a bit misleading about the sources of payment because a large portion of so-called private insurance coverage will actually be paid for by the government through subsidies. According to the CBO, 81% of individuals purchasing their own coverage through the Exchanges will receive federal subsidies that reduce the cost of purchasing health insurance coverage.
Therefore, I have estimated exchanges’ drug spending share using the CMS’ health insurance enrollment data. I assume that per-capita drug spending will be similar between people with employer-sponsored private and those with private insurance from an exchange.
The chart below summarizes payment sources since 1970.
- Public funds, primarily Medicare and Medicaid, will pay for 44% of all drug spending. This level is actually below the government share of overall health care expenditures. By 2021, federal, state, and local government health care spending is projected to account for nearly 50 percent of national health spending.
- Exchanges will be 5% of drug spending. The exchanges will be used primarily by the uninsured. However, some employers will stop offering health insurance and shift employees to the exchange plans. Some policy analysts expect only limited erosion in individual coverage via ESI, while others project 20% or more declines. Click here for a useful summary from Avalere Health.
- The employer-sponsored insurance market will keep shrinking. In addition to the shift to exchanges, 2018 will see an excise tax on high-cost insurance plans. This will likely trigger a shift to lower-cost plans with tighter utilization management, narrower networks, or higher cost-sharing requirements.
- Consumers will pay even less. Consumers’ out-of-pocket expenses—cash-pay prescriptions plus copayments and coinsurance—shrank from 87% of total U.S. retail prescription drug expenditures in 1970 to 2010’s record-low 19%. In 2010, consumer’s out-of-pocket drug spending dropped by $2 billion (-4.1%) in 2010, due primarily to the health care reform legislation. See Healthcare Reform Hits U.S. Drug Spending in 2010. By 2021, the consumer’s share will drop to a super-low 14% of spending, due to the subsidized exchange coverage and expanded Medicaid coverage. So much for skin in the game!
Surprised? Delighted? Depressed? You have good reasons for all three feelings.