Richard Zeckhauser Photo

Richard Zeckhauser

Appointment
Frank Plumpton Ramsey Professor of Political Economy
Office Address
79 John F. Kennedy St. Littauer Bldg 312
617-495-1174
Frank, Richard G., and Richard J. Zeckhauser. "High-Priced Drugs in Medicare Part D: Diagnosis and Potential Prescription." January 2018.

Abstract

Drug pricing in the U.S. is a persistently vexing policy problem. While there is agreement among many policy analysts that supra competitive prices are necessary to promote innovation; significant disagreements arise over how much pricing discretion prescription drug manufacturers should be permitted, and what portion of the sum of producer plus consumer surplus in the prescription drug market should be claimed by manufacturers relative to consumers and other payers. This paper focuses on an extremely costly component of the Medicare Part D program the region of coverage that kicks in once a consumer has spent $4,950 on drugs in a calendar year (roughly $8,100 in total drug spending). At that point there are high levels of insurance for the consumer and reinsurance for the prescription drug plan. Consumers pay 5% of costs; plans pay 15% and the government 80%. That design generates serious inefficiencies. The significant subsidies to plans in the reinsurance region combined with the launch of unique high cost prescription drugs could be expected to lead to and has led to substantial departures from cost-effective outcomes in treatments delivered.