- Uninsured Americans who obtained coverage under the Affordable Care Act filled needed prescriptions while seeing their out-of-pocket costs drop, a Rand Corporation analysis shows.
- Individuals with low income who gained Medicaid coverage filled 79% more prescriptions and spent 58% less out-of-pocket per prescription in 2014 versus 2013. Those who got private insurance on one of the ACA public health exchanges filled 28% more scripts and paid 29% less out-of-pocket.
- The researchers hope to gather more data to see if the increase in prescription use translates to improved outcomes for patients.
The researchers analyzed prescription transaction data for 6.7 million individuals to see how usage had changed since implementation of Obamacare. They found a 30% drop in the proportion of uninsured Americans in 2014, compared with 2013.
Prescription use was higher among people with at least one of five major conditions: Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, depression and high cholesterol. For example, new Medicaid enrollees with asthma or COPD filled 17.8 more prescriptions in 2014 than in 2013, an increase of 67%. Previously uninsured people who gained Medicaid coverage but didn’t have one of the five major conditions filled 10.9 more prescriptions.
“The increase in use among people who gained coverage could reflect the initiation of treatment for newly diagnosed conditions or for preexisting but untreated or undertreated conditions,” the researchers wrote. “While our study did not specifically address the impacts of initiating treatment, treatment of preexisting conditions could improve long-run health outcomes and reduce long-run health care spending.”
At the same time, the net impact of increased prescription use across all healthcare services is unclear since some those costs might by offset by reduced spending on other services.
Forbe’s Bruce Japsen notes the findings be profitable for retail pharmacies and drug benefit managers that fill all these new prescriptions.