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Track Rep. 2009 Mar;(23):1-4.

Access to prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries.


Despite the introduction of a Medicare outpatient prescription drug benefit in January 2006, roughly the same proportion of elderly Medicare beneficiaries in 2003 and 2007--about 8 percent--skipped filling at least one prescription drug because of cost concerns, according to a new national study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). However, over the same period, more working-age adults went without a prescribed drug because of cost, suggesting the new Medicare drug benefit may have prevented a similar deterioration in access for the elderly. But, the proportion of seniors dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid who went without a prescribed medicine almost doubled between 2003 and 2007--from 10.8 percent to 21.3 percent. And, the new Medicare drug benefit did little to close large, longstanding prescription drug access gaps between elderly white and African-American beneficiaries, healthier and sicker beneficiaries, and lower-income and higher-income beneficiaries. For example, three times as many elderly African-American beneficiaries (17.6%) went without a prescribed medication in 2007 as white beneficiaries (6.2%). In addition, Medicare beneficiaries under age 65--typically eligible because of permanent disability or severe kidney disease--had more than three times the prescription drug access problems (27.5%) as elderly beneficiaries in 2007.

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