One in ten Americans say they cannot afford to take the medications prescribed to them because of rising costs. For some, they will either opt to not fill a prescription, take less than instructed in order to “stretch” out the prescription or simply delay buying the medicine. This is a dangerous trend, especially for older Americans who feel they have no choice but to risk their health.
Americans Risk Their Health: by the Numbers
The report, released via the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention, breaks the numbers down:
- 15% of American adults have requested from their doctors a lower cost alternative.
- 2% have bought drugs in another country, especially in those countries where drugs may not be closely regulated.
- 4% have tried “alternative therapies”.
Maria Villarroel, chief of the special projects branch at National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) explains, “Not taking medications as prescribed can have serious consequences… People who do not take their medication as prescribed have more hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and an increased burden of their illness.” And that includes older Americans who are unsure of the resources, such as Medicaid and Medicare that may be available.
To provide context: 7.8 % of all adults do not take their medications as prescribed to save money – and as mentioned, 4.5 % of them are over the age of 65.
Not surprising, insurance considerations are a big factor in these types of decisions. Among adults younger than 64, and even with insurance and other resources, about 6 % with private insurance skipped medications to save money, compared with 10.4 % of those with Medicaid and 14 % of uninsured patients. Those who live in poverty or are considered low income are also at high risk of not taking their medicines as prescribed. Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University prevention Research Center says, “Poor adherence to prescribed medication use is a significant problem with potentially serious consequences.” He goes on to say that it makes sense for public and private insurers to remove all barriers to access and, if anything, add incentives for those in need of these important medicines. “Failure to use an important medication portends complications, a bad outcome and higher costs,” Katz said. “The patient, the payer, and potentially the public, all lose in this scenario. Removing financial disincentive is a good place to start.”
Medicaid and Medicare Advice
There are recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, including ways for people, and especially seniors and the elderly, to save money on their prescription drugs:
- Ask your doctor if generic or other lower-cost medications are available
- Compare and choose an insurance plan that offers additional drug coverage
- Consider drug assistance plans offered by pharmacies and states
- If you haven’t applied yet for Medicaid, Medicare and/or Social Security, you should as it can help reduce costs.
- Consider checking into community-based charities for additional assistance with medication costs
And of course, our team of elder law attorneys welcome the opportunity to provide legal direction for you or your loved one. Contact our offices today to learn more about the role of Medicaid and Medicare in your overall health.