Medicare Part D, ACA Seen to Increase Prescription Drug Affordability

More Americans are able afford to fill their prescriptions following healthcare legislation.

While widely scrutinized for increasing healthcare costs and facing repeal or heavy reform by US Presidential candidates, findings from a recent study suggest that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), along with the Medicare Modernization Act, have led to an increased number of patients who can afford to fill their medications.

Investigators analyzed National Health Interview Surveys from 1999 to 2015. They found that in 2009, 25.1 million Americans did not fill a prescription in the previous year because they could not afford to do so, according to a study published by the American Journal of Public Health.

A majority of age groups reported difficulties paying for medication from 1999 to 2009. However, seniors did not report this problem.

Investigators found that problems associated with paying for medication among this population were the highest in 2004, at 5.4%. Once the Medicare Modernization Act was implemented and Medicare Part D was in full effect, the rate dropped to 3.6% in 2006.

With the improvement of the economy after 2009, the investigators said that most age groups reported improved ability to pay for medication. Adults aged 19- to 25-years-old who could not afford to pay for medication decreased from 10.8% in 2010 to 8.2% in 2011, which is likely because the ACA now allowed this population to remain covered under their parents’ insurance, according to the study.

This rate decreased among adults aged 26 to 64 after the full implementation of the ACA in 2014, which includes the emergence of health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion. Due to improvements in coverage, affordability problems for this age group dropped from 9.1% in 2013 to 7.9% in 2014, the study found.

Despite enormous progress, approximately 16.4 million adults still report difficulty affording medication. Additional improvements may be seen if more states choose to expand their Medicaid programs.

States like Louisiana who recently chose to expand their Medicaid programs have seen huge success, according to the study. Louisiana’s Medicaid program, Healthy Louisiana, already enrolled an additional 278,000 only 1 month after expansion.

People who enrolled in these expanded programs will likely be able to better afford prescription drugs they need to remain healthy.

“The takeaway is that health policy matters,” said lead researcher Jae Kennedy, HPA. “In both Republican and Democratic administrations, program changes in health care financing were associated with improved prescription affordability.”