NYU STUDY FINDS THAT ELDERLY WHO LACK PRESCRIPTION DRUG COVERAGE MISS MEDICATIONS FOR LIFE THREATENING DISEASES NEW YORK CITY, MARCH 6, 2000—A New York University researcher, Jan Blustein, M.D., of the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, has found that Medicare beneficiaries who lack prescription drug coverage may be less able than those with coverage to control serious health problems. Medicare typically does not cover the cost of prescription drugs, and many seniors cannot afford to buy coverage from other sources. The study confirms widespread anecdotal reports that a lack of coverage keeps many U.S. seniors from purchasing needed medications.
The study assessed the impact of drug coverage on elderly people by focusing on Medicare beneficiaries with hypertension (“high blood pressure”), a major cause of stroke, heart attack, heart failure and kidney failure. The study shows that beneficiaries without coverage were more likely than covered beneficiaries to fail to purchase needed antihypertensive medications. They also faced higher out-of-pocket costs for their purchases. Beneficiaries without drug coverage paid an average of 65 cents per tablet out of pocket, while those with coverage paid an average of 29 cents. Not only did the lack of drug coverage increase the likelihood that an older person would go without antihypertensives, but it also decreased the number of tablets purchased annually by those who did purchase antihypertensives.
Dr. Blustein’s study, “Drug Coverage and Drug Purchases By Medicare Beneficiaries With Hypertension,” will be published in the March 6th issue of Health Affairs. The research was supported by a grant from the Commonwealth Fund.
“These data show that financial barriers force many elderly people to go without prescribed medications for life-threatening conditions,” says Dr. Blustein. “In addition, other seniors, in an attempt to save costs, try to extend their prescriptions by skipping days instead of taking their pills every day, as prescribed. While we do not know the specific clinical consequences of these actions, it seems safe to say that they result in poorer health outcomes for many elderly Americans.”
Major findings of the study are:
· Seniors without drug coverage are 40 percent more likely than covered seniors to fail to purchase needed antihypertensive medications. · Non-covered seniors faced higher out-of-pocket costs for their drug purchases. They paid an average of 65 cents per tablet out-of-pocket, while those with coverage paid an average of 29 cents. · Not only did a lack of drug coverage increase the likelihood that an older person would go without antihypertensives, but it also decreased the number of tablets purchased annually by those who did purchase antihypertensives. · Seniors with lower income are less likely to have drug coverage. Only 56% of those with incomes between 100 and 135% of the poverty level have drug coverage. In contrast, 77% of those with incomes over 400% of the poverty level have coverage. · Less educated seniors are less likely to have prescription drug coverage. 63% of seniors with only a grade school education have drug coverage, compared with 75% of those with a college education.
“The study findings underscore the extent of which America’s current system of drug financing burdens many of these who are least able to bear the cost of potentially life-saving medications,” says Dr. Blustein.
The Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service was founded in 1938 as the Graduate Division for Training in Public Service. Today, the Wagner School is the largest public service school in the country. Committed to the values of public service and enriched by the academic excellence of New York University, the Wagner School delivers a comprehensive, practical education for those seeking to serve the public sector. Hailing from all over the world, students arrive at the Wagner School with a desire to serve the public and leave with the skills and experience to bring about change. Combining coursework in management, finance and policy with cutting edge research and work experience, the Wagner education enables them to transform personal commitment into public leadership. New York University is a private university in the public service, and the Wagner School stands at the heart of this mission, linking the enormous resources of the University to the community, to New York City and by extension, to the cities of this country and around the world.
New York University was established in 1831. Located in New York City’s historic Greenwich Village, NYU was specifically modeled on the great urban universities of Europe and was founded to serve the emerging middle class and new Americans. NYU is one of the largest private universities in the U.S., and it has the largest number of students from foreign lands of any U.S. college or university. Through its 13 schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and science, law, medicine, dentistry, business, education, nursing, public administration and policy, social work, and the cinematic and performing arts, among other areas.
The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation supporting independent research on health and social issues.