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Doctors mum on health reform; prescription drug costs may go up Posted: August 7th, 2013

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Major provisions of health reform, including an individual health insurance mandate, will be implemented in less than six months. However, a study finds doctors aren't talking to their patients about how the law could change their care.

That's according to health insurance information website HealthPocket. Meanwhile, a separate study from the site says consumers may find their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs increasing should they buy health insurance coverage on government administered exchanges.

Doctors not talking about health reform

In 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will make significant changes to the way Americans receive health insurance coverage. Not only will all residents be required to have medical insurance, many may find their health insurance plans begin offering new benefits such as maternity and prescription drug coverage.

Despite the enormous changes on the horizon, many doctors appear reluctant to discuss the health reform law with their patients. Of the individuals surveyed by HealthPocket, 75 percent say they have a doctor. However, only half of these doctors have said anything to their patient about the new law.

Doctors who did discuss the law were split regarding the type of comments they made. HealthPocket found 38 percent of doctors who spoke about health reform made mostly negative comments, 33 percent made mostly positive comments and 29 percent made neutral comments.

Prescription drug costs may go up

A separate HealthPocket study explored one area doctors may want to discuss with their patients: prescription drug costs.

According to a review of bronze and silver health insurance plans expected to be offered on the new government exchanges, consumers may pay an average of 34 percent more out-of-pocket for prescription drugs than they do now.

However, it is not all bad news for consumers. Currently, 20 percent of individual and family health insurance plans do not include prescription coverage. Under health reform provisions being implemented next year, prescription drugs will be considered an essential service that must be covered by all medical insurance.

Still there will be differences between plans and coverage levels, notes the study's author.

"About 70 percent of Americans use prescription drugs, and they are going to need to pay very, very close attention to what plans offer to minimize out-of-pocket increases for medications," said Kev Coleman, head of research and data at HealthPocket, in a written statement. "When it comes to drug costs and changes in our newly reformed health care system, the fine print really matters."