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Health Serv Res. 2011 Oct;46(5):1382-401. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2011.01252.x. Epub 2011 Mar 17.

Effect of switching to a high-deductible health plan on use of chronic medications.

Author information

  • 1Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, 133 Brookline Avenue, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02215, USA. skreiss@fas.harvard.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To examine whether high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) that exempt prescription drugs from full cost sharing preserve medication use for major chronic illness, compared with traditional HMOs with similar drug cost sharing.

DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING:

We examined 2001-2008 pharmacy claims data of 3,348 continuously enrolled adults in a Massachusetts health plan for 9 months before and 24 months after an employer-mandated switch from a traditional HMO plan to a HDHP, compared with 20,534 contemporaneous matched HMO members. Both study groups faced similar three-tiered drug copayments. We calculated daily medication availability for all prescription drugs and four chronic medication classes: hypoglycemics, lipid-lowering agents, antihypertensives, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)/asthma controllers.

STUDY DESIGN:

Interrupted time-series with comparison group study design examining monthly level and trend changes in prescription drug utilization.

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

The HDHP and control groups had comparable changes in the level and trend of all drugs after the index date; we detected similar patterns in the use of lipid-lowering agents, antihypertensives, and COPD/asthma controllers. Some evidence suggested a small relative decline in hypoglycemic use among diabetic patients in HDHPs.

CONCLUSIONS:

Switching to an HDHP that included modest drug copayments did not change medication availability or reduce use of essential medications for three common chronic illnesses.

© Health Research and Educational Trust.

PMID:
21413983
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3207183
Free PMC Article

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