Federal Stopgap Needed To Curb Seniors’ Prescription Drug Costs, Commonwealth Fund Study Finds
One-fifth of elderly New York residents skip doses or go without medication because of high prescription drug costs, according to a report released yesterday by the Commonwealth Fund, the Albany Times Union reports. Despite "excellent" state drug benefit programs and growing numbers of seniors enrolled in them, study authors said a national policy is needed to better insure the state's 2.4 million seniors. Although enrollment in New York's Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program has topped 300,000 since the income limit was raised last year, only 40% of eligible seniors have heard of the program, the study found (Odato, Albany Times Union, 12/5). The study, which examined 10,927 seniors in New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Colorado, Ohio and Texas, ranked New York second in prescription drug coverage for seniors, with 19% of seniors lacking prescription benefits, Newsday reports (MacKeen, Newsday, 12/6).
The Manhattan-based Commonwealth Fund's report said New York "has one of the largest and most effective senior drug assistance programs in the country," according to a release. The study determined that Medicaid provides the best drug coverage, followed by employer-sponsored plans. Medigap was found to provide "the least protection," with about a third of those enrolled in the Medicare supplement spending $100 or more per month on prescriptions (Commonwealth Fund release, 12/5). David Sandman, lead author of the study and assistant vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, said, "[T]he real lesson here is states can't fill the gap left by the absence of a Medicare prescription drug benefit" (Newsday, 12/6). Kit Ali, administrator of the Columbia County, New York, Office for the Aging, said it is "partly true" that seniors are uninformed of aid programs, but added, "[W]e can't jump to the conclusion that they aren't on it because they haven't heard of it. A lot of seniors are too proud to apply, especially with Medicaid." The New York General Assembly is considering a bill that would require the state to negotiate with manufacturers to reduce consumer prices for prescription drugs (Albany Times Union, 12/5). The report is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.