Cost-lowering strategies used by medicare beneficiaries who exceed drug benefit caps and have a gap in drug coverage.
ABSTRACT The majority of Medicare drug benefits in managed care (Medicare + Choice) have annual dollar limits or caps and many beneficiaries face temporary but potentially significant gaps in coverage after exceeding caps before the end of the year. In the new national Medicare drug benefit, beneficiaries with high medication expenditures will also face a period without drug coverage when their total drug costs exceed annual caps but are not high enough to qualify for catastrophic coverage.
To describe strategies adopted by beneficiaries exceeding annual drug benefit caps to lower prescription costs, the type of medications involved, and their financial burden.
A survey (completed in 2002) of Medicare + Choice beneficiaries aged 65 years and older with high medication costs and benefits capped on the plan's share of drug costs (65% response rate). The different caps offered in different counties were used as a natural experiment. Study participants (n = 665) exceeded a 750 dollars or 1200 dollars yearly cap in 2001 and had coverage gaps of 75 to 180 days. Control participants (n = 643) had 2000 dollars caps, which they did not exceed. Study and control participants were matched by average total drug expenditures per month.
Proportion of beneficiaries reporting specific strategies to decrease medication costs, medications affected, and difficulty paying for prescriptions.
In multivariate analyses adjusting for demographic and health characteristics, a higher proportion of patients exceeding caps reported using less prescribed medication than controls (18% vs 10%, respectively; P<.001), but similar proportions reported stopping medications completely (8% for both, P =.86) and of not starting prescribed medications (6% vs 5%, P =.39). Patients exceeding caps more often called pharmacies to find the best price (46% vs 29%, P<.001), switched medications (15% vs 9%, P =.002), used samples (34% vs 27%, P =.006), and had difficulty paying for prescriptions (62% vs 37%, P<.001). Twelve of the 20 therapeutic classes most often affected by decreases in use of medication were for chronic health problems such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and emphysema or asthma.
Medicare beneficiaries often decreased use of essential medications and experienced difficulty paying for prescriptions during gaps in coverage. Health professionals need to explore how they can lessen the impact of caps on patients' health and financial burden.
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ABSTRACT: Several studies have examined the impact of formulary management strategies on medication use in the elderly, but little has been done to synthesize the findings to determine whether the results show consistent trends.American Health and Drug Benefits 11/2011; 4(7):465-74.
Article: Digesting the doughnut hole[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Despite its success, Medicare Part D has been widely criticized for the gap in coverage, the so-called "doughnut hole". We compare the use of prescription drugs among beneficiaries subject to the coverage gap with usage among beneficiaries who are not exposed to it. We find that the coverage gap does, indeed, disrupt the use of prescription drugs among seniors with diabetes. But the declines in usage are modest and concentrated among higher cost, brand-name medications. Demand for high cost medications such as antipsychotics, antiasthmatics, and drugs of the central nervous system decline by 8-18% in the coverage gap, while use of lower cost medications with high generic penetration such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and antidepressants decline by 3-5% after reaching the gap. More importantly, lower adherence to medications is not associated with increases in medical service use.Journal of Health Economics 12/2013; 32(6):1345-55. DOI:10.1016/j.jhealeco.2013.04.007 · 2.25 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Objectives We assessed whether Medicare Part D reduced disparities in access to medication. Study Design Secondary data analysis of a 20% sample of Medicare beneficiaries, using Parts A and B medical claims from 2002 to 2008 and Part D drug claims from 2006 to 2008. Methods We analyzed the medication use of Hispanic, black, and white beneficiaries with diabetes before and after reaching the Part D coverage gap, and compared their use with that of race-specific reference groups not exposed to the loss in coverage. Unadjusted difference-in-difference results were validated with multivariate regression models adjusted for demographics, comorbidities, and zip code-level household income used as a proxy for socioeconomic status. Results The rate at which Hispanics reduced use of diabetes-related medications in the coverage gap was twice as high as whites, while blacks decreased their use of diabetes-related medications by 33% more than whites. The reduction in medication use was correlated with drug price. Hispanics and blacks were more likely than whites to discontinue a therapy after reaching the coverage gap but more likely to resume once coverage restarted. Hispanics without subsidies and living in low-income areas reduced medication use more than similar blacks and whites in the coverage gap. Conclusions We found that the Part D coverage gap is particularly disruptive to minorities and those living in low-income areas. The implications of this work suggest that protecting the health of vulnerable groups requires more than premium subsidies. Patient education may be a first step, but more substantive improvements in adherence may require changes in healthcare delivery.The American journal of managed care 02/2015; 21(2):119-28. · 2.17 Impact Factor