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Study finds drug spending caps cause some seniors to quit taking key medicines
Date:9/11/2007

Many seniors quit taking drugs for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure when they exceed their drug plans yearly spending limits, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

Even when drug benefits resume at the start of a new health plan year, a significant number of seniors do not resume their prescription medications, according to the findings published in the September/October edition of the journal Health Affairs.

The study, which examined the behavior of seniors enrolled in a national private health plan, provides insight into how seniors may act under provisions of Medicares new drug benefit plan that will leave about one-third of enrollees without drug coverage for some part of each benefit year.

Prescription use falls significantly as patients reach their benefit caps, said Geoffrey Joyce, the studys lead author and a senior economist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. Most of the drugs we studied help prevent long-term complications of chronic disease so there are likely to be adverse health consequences for seniors who hit their caps.

RAND Health researchers studied prescription drug use from 2003 to 2005 among more than 60,000 people enrolled in a health plan offered to retirees by a large national employer. Enrollees had a choice of two drug plans that offered annual drug benefit caps of $1,000 or $2,500 and one drug plan that had no spending limit. Participants had to pay a portion of individual drug purchases in each of the plans.

The study examined enrollees use of drugs used to treat high blood pressure, drugs that target cardiac problems, diabetes drugs, ulcer treatments and antidepressants. They also studied prescription pain medications that have over-the-counter substitutes.

About 6 percent to 13 percent of the people enrolled in drug plans with caps reached their spending limits in each of the years studied, with about half the affected enrollees
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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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