Last week, the Washington Post ran an alarming article, the title of which announced, “Cutting pills in half may save you a bunch in prescription drug costs.” As a public benefits attorney, I was troubled to see this discussion of the “benefits” of pill-splitting without any mention of one of the biggest culprits of high drug costs for people in Medicare: having the wrong insurance coverage. For the thousands of Washingtonians who have prescription drug coverage through Medicare Part D, being in the wrong plan can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.
As we’ve previously blogged about, each year the private prescription drug plans that offer coverage under Part D change. Legal Aid and Whitman-Walker Health coordinate an annual series of clinics where we are able to help scores of people like “Rita,” an 86 year-old woman with severe visual impairment. Rita would have faced $7,900 a year in drug costs if we had not changed her plan. Cutting pills in half may be the only option for some, but we hope low-income Medicare recipients will first consider consulting an expert to make sure they are in the right plan before they resort to the pill splitter.