Drug prices, out-of-pocket payments, and insurer costs: How do payers vary?

College of Staten Island, City University of New York, New York, NY, USA.
Advances in health economics and health services research 03/2010; 22:221-31. DOI: 10.1108/S0731-2199(2010)0000022013
Source: PubMed


To examine how drug prices for specific diseases vary across payers in the United States and how insurer and patient out-of-pocket (OOP) costs vary by payer type.
This study uses data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) from 1996 to 2006. We estimate multivariate price regressions for four major drug product classes (antihypertensive, antidepressant, antiasthma drugs, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)). Separate models are estimated for brand and generic drugs within each of these drug product classes. In addition to estimating overall transaction price equations for brands and generics, the study estimates patient OOP payments and insurer payments for drugs.
We find relatively modest differences among payers in terms of total prices (e.g., insurer plus OOP). The main difference is in terms of how prices were shared between insurers and patients. Medicaid paid significantly more than other payers for each drug class, while Medicaid beneficiaries paid significantly less. RESEARCH IMPLICATIONS: Our results shed light on how drug prices vary by different payers and how drug prices are shared by third party payers and patients. The relatively modest differences in total drug prices across payer type suggest that these payers do not differ greatly in terms of their ability to negotiate price concessions from their suppliers. Instead, larger differences emerge in terms of how total costs are shared among the payer and their patients. Understanding the reasons for these variations, and their implications for health outcomes, are important directions for further research.

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