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Medicare Drug Premiums Won’t Increase in 2012, U.S. Says

Premiums for Medicare prescription drug plans run by private insurers won’t go up in 2012, the U.S. said in a press release.

Beneficiaries will pay $31.08 in 2012, on average, for access to the drug plans, compared with $30.76 in 2011, according to the program. UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) led enrollment in the drug benefit plans by publicly traded companies in the first quarter of 2011, followed by Humana Inc. (HUM) and Universal American Corp. (UAM), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Medicare Administrator Donald Berwick said that the largely unchanged premiums, combined with drug discounts in the 2010 health overhaul, will lower out-of-pocket spending by Medicare beneficiaries.

“It’s a competitive market and we’re seeing the effect of good competition among Part D plans take its effect,” Berwick said on a call with reporters announcing the rates.

The steady or decreasing premiums are being driven by competition among the private plans as well as increased use of generic drugs and drugs coming off of patent protection, said Berwick and Sherry Glied, the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services.

New York-based Pfizer Inc. (PFE)’s top-selling drug Lipitor loses patent protection in November. The heart drug accounted for the second-most spending by Medicare in 2009, according to the program.

To contact the reporter on this story: Drew Armstrong in Washington at darmstrong17@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Adriel Bettelheim at abettelheim@bloomberg.net.

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