As coverage for prescription drugs expands under the Affordable Care Act, unnecessary regulations will boost drug costs, according to a new study from the National Center for Policy Analysis.
"As drug benefits have become more common, so too have the calls upon lawmakers to impose additional regulations on drug plans and the firms managing them," writes study author Devon Herrick, a senior fellow with the center. "Though purportedly designed to protect consumers, much of this legislation actually weakens health plans' ability to efficiently manage prescription drug benefits."
Some state laws, for instance, restrict the ability of drug plans to develop limited pharmacy networks that lower drug prices through bargaining with specific drug dispensers. in an effort to benefit local pharmacies, some states are restricting drug plans from offering lower prices for mail-order prescriptions. Dispensing fees for counting tablets, filling bottles and other administrative tasks, meanwhile, are much higher for state-managed Medicaid plans, resulting in higher compensation to pharmacies.
"Prices, profitability and services will continue to suffer unless open competition removes many of these barriers that will continue raising prescription costs," Herrick said in a press statement.
Health insurance and Medicaid coverage will expand in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, giving more Americans access to prescription drug coverage.
Sixty percent of Americans take a prescription drug in any given year, and almost all seniors do, the center said. Americans filled an estimated 3.8 billion retail prescriptions in 2011.
The National Center for Policy Analysis is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy group headquartered in Dallas.