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Medicare Part D premiums expected to decrease in 2018, agency says

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Medicare Part D premiums expected to decrease in 2018, agency says

The average premium for a Medicare prescription drug plan in 2018 is projected to decline to an estimated $33.50 per month, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Medicare prescription drug plans fall under Part D of the health insurance program, which is for people 65 and over, the disabled or those with end-stage renal disease. Most enrollees pay a monthly premium for coverage of certain drugs, depending on what is reimbursed by their selected plan.

The estimated average premium for 2018 would be $1.20 less than the actual average premium of $34.70 in 2017.

"We are committed to making prescription drug plan premiums affordable so that seniors and people with disabilities in Medicare can access the prescription drugs that they need," Seema Verma, CMS administrator, said in a statement.

Spending for Part D of Medicare continues to increase faster than spending for any other part of the health insurance program, despite the estimated premium decrease in 2018, the agency said in its release. The increase in spending is largely driven by the high cost of specialty drugs, which usually require different handling, monitoring or administration than pills.

Medicare Part D spending in 2016 amounted to $100 billion, the Medicare Board of Trustees said in its 2017 report. Over the past 10 years, Part D benefit payments have increased by an annual rate of 7.8% in total and by 3% per enrollee, according to the board.

"In the future, the average per capita drug benefit growth rate is expected to exceed the rate of increase in other categories of medical spending," the Medicare Board of Trustees reported.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates releasing the premiums and costs for Medicare health and drug plans for 2018 in mid-September.