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Prescription Drug Affordability Woes Grow for Americans
Unmet Needs Increase for Privately Insured Working-Age People with Chronic Conditions
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Among all American adults, prescription drug access problems rose markedly for adults with chronic conditions, increasing from 16.5 percent in 2001 to 18.3 percent in 2003. As a result, more than 14 million American adults with chronic conditionsmore than half with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $36,800 for a family of four in 2003could not afford all of their prescriptions in 2003.
"Adults with chronic conditions were twice as likely as other adults to have problems affording prescription drugs," said Paul B. Ginsburg, Ph.D., president of HSC, a nonpartisan policy research organization funded principally by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The studys findings are based on HSCs Community Tracking Study Household Survey, a nationally representative survey that asked people about their ability to afford prescription medicines. In 2003, the survey included 36,500 adults 18 and older, while the 2001 survey included responses from 46,400 adults.
The proportion of all American adults reporting problems affording prescription drugs also ticked up between 2001 and 2003, increasing from 12 percent to 12.8 percent. This small but statistically significant increase in affordability problems likely resulted from higher prescribing rates and increased patient cost sharing, according to the study.
In another indication that increased patient cost sharing contributes to prescription affordability problems, the proportion of privately insured, working-age people with chronic conditions who reported not filling at least one prescription because of cost concerns increased from 12.7 percent to 15.2 percent between 2001 and 2003.
"As medical needs for prescription drugs continue to grow, its likely that the proportion of working-age Americans, especially those with chronic conditions, going without prescription drugs because of cost concerns will continue to grow," said Marie Reed, M.H.S., an HSC health research analyst and study author.
The studys findings are detailed in a new HSC Issue BriefAn Update on Americans Access to Prescription Drugs. Other key findings include:
The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nations changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is funded principally by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.