A new study shows that many Medicare beneficiaries do not know the real costs of their prescription drugs. Despite the up to 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs, many beneficiaries would do well to sit down and examine the price they are paying for prescription drugs, especially any “specialty tier” drugs they may be taking.

The study by NERA Economic Consulting found that beneficiaries were “largely unaware” of the high cost of specialty-tier prescription drugs. Specialty-tier drugs are placed in a special payment category by insurance plans and often include medications used to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS and lupus.

The survey interviewed 683 seniors and found that:

  • Many did not know Medicare Part D plans charge more for expensive medicines used to treat complex, chronic diseases. Half incorrectly thought they would be required to co-pay (as opposed to coinsurance) for a drug on the specialty tier
  • Many underestimated the costs of specialty-tier drugs, including those used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
  • Most would be taken by surprise financially if prescribed a drug on a specialty tier.

The study revealed that in most cases, beneficiaries just weren’t sure how much they are paying for prescription drugs but in general seemed to underestimate the cost.

For more on prescription drug costs for seniors, see: