Medicare spent $4.5B on hepatitis c treatments

March 29, 2015

Medicare spent $4.5 billion last year on new hepatitis C treatments - more than 15 times what it spent the year before, previously undisclosed federal data shows. The outlays will be borne largely by federal taxpayers, but the expenditures will also mean higher deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket costs for many of the 39 million seniors and disabled enrollees, who pay a smaller share of its cost, experts and federal officials said. Sovaldi accounted for more than $3 billion of the spending, while Harvoni hit $670 million even though it came on the market only in October. Bills for a third drug, Olysio, often taken in conjunction with Sovaldi, reached $821 million. Medicare also spent $157 million on older hepatitis C drugs in 2014. The hepatitis C drugs, along with other expensive specialty medications in the pipeline, threaten to drastically increase the program's costs. The federal government spent $65 billion on Part D in 2013, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. That figure doesn't include monthly premiums paid by patients. Medicare's costs for the drugs appear to be far higher than those incurred by state Medicaid programs for the poor, which collectively spent $1.2 billion on the drugs in the first nine months of the year. Many Medicaid programs, as well as private insurance companies, took a more restrictive approach toward the drugs.