Report: Drug costs for seniors to skyrocket next year

A vast majority of seniors enrolled in Medicare's prescription drug program will see double-digit rate hikes in 2011, according to an independent analysis released Thursday. 

Avalere Health, a Washington-based policy group, estimates the average monthly premium for Part D's top 10 plans — which cover roughly 70 percent of all Part D enrollees — will jump 10 percent in 2011. 

“Some major plans are no longer being offered and premiums for certain plans have increased significantly," Avalere CEO Dan Mendelson said in a statement. "Beneficiaries are going to need to be savvy consumers and shop around to find the plan that’s best for them."

Of the top 10 drug plans catering to Medicare patients, seven are projected to increase their premiums next year between 43 and 3 percent, Avalere estimates. The remaining three plans — including the top plan by enrollment, AARP's MedicareRx Preferred — Avalere says will decrease rates, between 11 and 2 percent.

Two of the top 10 stand-alone drug plans — AARP's MedicareRx Saver and Universal American’s PrescribaRX Bronze — are not being offered next year at all, shifting those patients (automatically) into different plans offered by the same sponsors, Avalere notes.  Those plans were the 2nd and 9th most popular, respectively, among seniors this year, the group says.