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12 Cheapest States for Prescription Drugs

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Related: 15 Cheapest States for Long-Term Care: 2020

Older Americans are deeply concerned about prescription drug prices.

This isn’t surprising when you consider that the U.S. has the highest total drug expenditure and most pharmaceutical spending per capita among developed countries, which experts put down to steep drug prices, according to a new report from MedicareGuide, a Miami-based health insurance marketing program company that runs the HealthCare.com health insurance shopping website.

Federal help may be on the way, but getting there will be a slog. The report notes that the Biden administration recently announced its support for Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers and pass those lower rates along to consumers. At the same time, it delayed enforcement of a new rule that requires insurers to publish prescriptions prices from Jan. 1 until July 2022.

In the meantime, many Medicare beneficiaries are unable to afford their medications. According to the report, Americans 65 and older spent an average of $7,554 on prescription drugs last year.

In an effort to save on prescription drugs, 23% asked for generics and 19% obtained larger supplies to reduce co-pays, among other methods, according to MedicareGuide research.

Researchers at MedicareGuide wondered which states currently offer the cheapest prescription drugs for the senior population.

They looked at Medicare Part D data on prices of popular medications across the 50 states. Seventy-seven percent of Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in Part D, 44 million all told.

The examination showed that some drugs were reimbursed at similar rates nationwide, while the prices of other pharmaceuticals varied widely.

Take atorvastatin, a widely prescribed cholesterol drug sold under the brand name Lipitor. The cost per claim ranges from a low of $11.72 in Mississippi to a high of $25.54 in Maine, a difference of about 220%.

To determine the cheapest states for prescription drugs, MedicareGuide compared the 50 states and District of Columbia across these cost metrics:

  • Average Annual Part D Drug Deductible
  • Average Monthly Premium Part D
  • Percent of Taxable Earnings Going to Medicare Part D Drug Coverage
  • Part B Drugs Per Capita Actual Costs
  • Annual Prescription Drug Price Per Capita

Researchers also used eight relevant metrics to evaluate states’ access to drugs and the quality of insurance coverage. They then determined each state’s and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score.

See the gallery for the 12 cheapest states for prescription drugs determined by cost score — the higher the score, the lower the costs.

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