Despite rise in drug costs, ACA, Part D have made them more affordable

Drugs and money.

Despite complaints about the rising costs of drugs, at least one study suggests that prescriptions have actually become more affordable in recent years.

That's according to a new study by researchers at Washington State University. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, noted that the implementation of Medicare Part D for seniors and the Affordable Care Act for everyone else over the past dozen years has actually made the affordability equation more favorable for consumers.

The proportion of seniors who had trouble affording medication reached a peak of 5.4 percent in 2004. But after Part D drug coverage began being deployed, seniors with affordability issues dropped to 3.6 percent in 2006, a reduction of about one-third.

Among those Americans younger than 65, those with affordability issues fell from 9.1 percent in 2013 to 8.2 percent in 2014 as the ACA's health insurance exchanges were rolled out.

That data tend to be confirmed in another study published earlier this year in the journal Health Affairs. In that study, out-of-pocket costs were reduced for both the Medicaid and commercial populations, although the number of prescriptions also increased significantly. Moreover, spending has been on the rise, with expenditures on drugs adjusted for net prices reaching $309.5 billion in 2015, up 8.5 percent from 2014, according to data from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

“The takeaway is that health policy matters,” said Jae Kennedy, Ph.D., a department of health policy professor at Washington State University and the study's lead author, in a statement. “In both Republican and Democratic administrations, program changes in health care financing were associated with improved prescription affordability.”