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Prescription Drug Access: Not Just a Medicare Problem

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Publication Date: April 2002

Publisher(s): Center for Studying Health System Change

Author(s): Peter J. Cunningham

Series: Issue Brief No. 51

Topic: Health (Pharmaceutical services)

Type: Brief


While all state Medicaid programs provide outpatient prescription drug coverage, slightly more than one in four Medicaid patients ages 18-64 could not afford to fill at least one prescription in the last year, according to a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). A similar percentage of uninsured adults also had difficulty affording prescription medications. Faced with rapidly rising drug spending, many states have moved to control Medicaid prescription drug spending by imposing copayments, limiting the number of prescriptions and using other cost-containment methods. The study indicates that these state cost-control measures are contributing to Medicaid beneficiaries’ prescription drug access problems. State and federal policy makers should keep in mind that the impact of these controls on Medicaid beneficiaries is likely to be greater than on privately insured people, given their higher need and lower incomes.1