2015 In Review: The Good(Rx) and Bad

Elizabeth Davis
Posted on

2015 was another tough year for American’s health care budgets. Insurance premiums increased, coverage was dropped for a number of important drugs, and overall we’re spending more for our health care.

Don’t break out the antidepressants yet—it’s not all bad news. A number of important drugs went generic, which will generally mean huge savings and lower costs. Plus, a large number of drugs actually decreased in price. (Yes, really!)

Here are 5 big trends GoodRx observed in 2015.

1. Some drugs lost insurance coverage…

The two largest prescription insurance companies stopped covering a number of popular drugs in 2015, including Viagra and the weight-loss med Qsymia. Most plans are also only covering one of the new hepatitis C meds—for example, Express Scripts now excludes all options except Viekira Pak. To learn more, we’ve got the full list of excluded drugs here.

(For a deeper look at drug coverage changes, here’s a great article.)

2. …but several major drugs went generic in 2015.

Generic drugs are cheaper than their brand-name counterparts. In 2015, fewer generics were released than in other recent years—but generic releases for some big name brand drugs still made a difference this year. Generics tend to offer significant savings, and filling a generic instead of a brand can mean a difference of hundreds of dollars no matter how you pay.

Here’s a list of drugs where a generic version became available in 2015:

3. Prices are going down (yay!)—but you’re still paying more (boo!).

Huge price hikes like Daraprim made the news this year—for good reason. But you may not have known that the cash prices on many popular drugs actually dropped in 2015.

An internal analysis of GoodRx prices shows that 30 of the 50 most popular generic drugs actually decreased in price in 2015.

Even better, these drugs cover almost every common condition—from mental health (fluoxetine / Prozac, duloxetine / Cymbalta), to heart conditions (atorvastatin / Lipitor, losartan / Cozaar), and allergies or asthma (montelukast / Singulair).

Popular generics with price decreases in 2015*
Drug Name Percent Decrease Current GoodRx Price
fluoxetine (Prozac) 30.4% $5
montelukast (Singulair) 19.9% $18
duloxetine (Cymbalta) 10.4% $38
atorvastatin (Lipitor) 8.2% $13
losartan (Cozaar) 4.8% $9

*Prices as of December 16, 2015, using the GoodRx Fair Price for a 30-day supply.

4. The world is going high-deductible

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know that insurance plans are covering less, and deductibles are rising. Even with lower cash prices, you may be paying more out of pocket for the same prescriptions.

Perhaps the biggest trend in insurance in 2015 is higher deductibles. Most employers are either already offering (18%) or considering offering (44%) a high deductible plan as the only option for their employees.

5. The Affordable Care Act offers limited coverage

Buying insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges means you’re even more likely to pay a larger share of your healthcare costs. Last year, over 65% of people who purchased a plan through a state or federal marketplace chose a silver plan.

Under a silver plan in 2014, you were responsible for about 30% of your total health care costs, and the average deductible was $2907 per person. If you chose a bronze plan, that goes up to 40% of your total health care costs, with an average deductible of $5081 per person.

More and more people are choosing these plans—or having them offered as the only option—and that means you’re covering more of your own health care costs overall.

So what’s in store for 2016?

Will the cost of your health insurance increase? The short answer is yes, but it’s complicated. It’s estimated that premiums for plans through your employer will increase by about 4.2%. However, if you’re getting insurance through an ACA marketplace, changes to the available tax credits could mean you’ll pay less in 2016 depending on your income and other factors.

There will be more generics released—especially near the end of 2016. Though none of these are guaranteed, we may see generic versions of some big drugs including Crestor (rosuvastatin) for high cholesterol, Gleevec (imatinib) for chemotherapy, and Nuvigil (armodafinil) for sleep disorders. A long-awaited generic version of albuterol inhaler Proair HFA may also be on the market by the end of the year, along with Advair Diskus (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol) and Flovent Diskus (fluticasone propionate) inhalers.

We’ll also continue to spend more on health care in the US. The expected increase isn’t as large as in 2015, but costs are still going up. Spending on private health care is predicted to go up 5.4% each year from 2016 to 2024 (Medicare spending will grow slightly more at 7.3% per year).

Overall, 2015 was a mixed year for health care. Happy holidays and we look forward to helping you save in 2016.

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