New ObamaCare enrollees are healthier, report finds

New ObamaCare enrollees are healthier, report finds
© Greg Nash

New ObamaCare enrollees are healthier and spent less on drugs than enrollees last year, according to a new analysis. 

ADVERTISEMENT
The report from Express Scripts, the country’s largest pharmacy benefits manager, is a positive sign for the law, given the need to maintain a mix of healthy and sick enrollees to keep costs down. 

Still, ObamaCare exchange enrollees tended to be sicker than those in other health plans. Costs were 16 percent higher per member per month compared to non-ObamaCare plans, the report finds, largely due to higher spending on costly drugs for complex conditions. 

"While it is encouraging to see data that suggests healthier Americans are enrolling in exchange plans, the research reminds us that many of these patients use this benefit to manage serious, chronic illnesses," said Julie Huppert, vice president of healthcare reform at Express Scripts.

The encouraging sign for the law is that the number of new enrollees who used at least one prescription medication declined 18 percent in the first quarter of 2015. Costs were 36 percent lower per member per month compared to the first quarter of 2014. 

However, spending on high-cost medications for complex conditions, known as specialty drugs, grew faster on ObamaCare plans than on other plans. 

Spending on those high-cost medications grew 24 percent over the last year, compared to eight percent growth for non-ObamaCare plans. 

New high-cost cures for Hepatitis C have drawn much attention to drug prices, with some costing as much as $84,000 for a 12-week treatment. 

Spending on Hepatitis C drugs grew 96 percent from the beginning of last year on ObamaCare plans, the report finds.