Average Medicare Part D plan premium expected to decline in 2018

For the first time in five years, the average Medicare Part D premium is expected to decline.

The average basic premium for a Part D prescription drug plan will be $33.50 per month in 2018, according to a newly released projection from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That’s down $1.20 compared to the average premium of $34.70 per month this year.

The projection, which is calculated by the CMS Office of the Actuary, is based on bids submitted by drug plans for basic drug coverage for the 2018 benefit year.

Trump administration officials hailed the estimate as encouraging news for the 43 million seniors enrolled in Part D—and the president’s agenda.

“This projection is a step forward in fulfilling the Trump administration’s promise to lower the cost of prescription drug coverage, particularly for Medicare beneficiaries,” CMS administrator Seema Verma said.

And Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price pointed out that the projection “comes on the heels of a proposal released last month that would allow seniors to share in the discounted drug prices hospitals are already getting under Medicare.”

Despite the lower projected average premium next year, spending for the Part D program continues to increase faster than spending for other parts of Medicare, CMS noted. That trend is largely driven by spending on high-cost specialty drugs.

Indeed, a report issued in January from the HHS Office of Inspector General found that high-priced specialty drugs—such as hepatitis C treatments—were the main reason why federal payments for Medicare Part D catastrophic coverage have tripled since 2010.