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New drug price cap could translate to savings for some CT seniors

Sujata Srinivasan
Connecticut Public
(L-R) Nora Duncan, Connecticut State Director, AARP; U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal; and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy were at Arrow Pharmacy in Hartford highlighting an out-of-pocket drug spending cap under the federal Inflation Reduction Actwhich took effect this year.

More than a quarter million seniors in Connecticut could soon see savings on the amount of out-of-pocket money they’re spending on medication.

That’s due to a new cap on prescription drug costs for seniors insured by Medicare Part D. The changes, which took effect this year under a provision in the federal Inflation Reduction Act, cap total out-of-pocket drug costs to an estimated $3,300.

And next year, the cap will fall even lower.

“It will be $2,000 next year,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday at Arrow Pharmacy in Hartford. The Democrat said he’d like to see that cap fall even further and that residents also need less expensive insurance premiums.

The 2025 $2,000 cap is estimated to result in more than $94 million in total savings for people in Connecticut, according to federal officials.

The reductions in out-of-pocket drug costs come as members of Congress are set to meet with CEOs from some of the biggest drug companies. Next week, those business leaders will appear before a Senate committee to answer one simple question, said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy: “Why on earth are you continuing to charge people in the United States of America double, triple, quadruple what you charge citizens of other countries?”

Nora Duncan, Connecticut director at the AARP, said she’s excited that last year the Inflation Reduction Act “made vaccines, such as the shingles vaccine which is about $350 out-of-pocket, free; capped the cost of insulin at no more than $35 a month, and started penalizing drug companies if they increased prices more than the rate of inflation.”

Drug affordability is crucial for seniors, said Dave Flaherty, a pharmacist at Arrow Pharmacy. If people have co-pays on their medicines, or if their insurance does not cover the medication cost, “compliance is an issue,” he said.

Facing unaffordable costs, he said some patients “may be late on their medicine, they may skip doses, they may take half doses [and] whenever that does happen, I try to assist them. Maybe I'll call the doctor to get a drug that's covered by their insurance. That's not always an option.”

Under the Inflation Reduction Act, the federal government is negotiating prices with drug companies for a first list of 10 drugs covered under Medicare Part D.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.