The answer is yes. Out of eleven developed countries, America is #1 when it comes to high drug prices preventing people from taking needed medications, according to a new international survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund and reported on in Health Affairs. Twenty-one percent of American adults – over 50 million people – skipped medication due to cost, more than double the 9% who did so in Germany, the second highest rate. In the United Kingdom, only two percent of adults reported skipping medication due to drug costs.
The disturbing number of Americans forgoing prescriptions is not solely due to our large uninsured population. In fact, the Commonwealth Fund data shows that 15% of insured Americans skipped prescription medication due to costs, often because of high plan deductibles, co-payments, or co-insurance, supporting our recent analysis that those who will become insured under Obamacare may, too, find drug costs out of reach and seek affordable medication internationally. Hopefully, reforms under Obamacare, such as requiring plans to cover at least one drug in each “class” of drug and the eventual cap on out-of-pocket spending, will help Americans more easily afford their medication.
The data also shows the extent to which high drug prices affect patients with chronic conditions; skipping meds prescribed for chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma, can lead to hospitalizations, emergency room visits, or even death. Twenty-nine percent of Americans with chronic medical conditions skipped their meds due to costs, more than double the 14% of Australians, who had the second highest rate. Only 1% of patients in the U.K. with chronic conditions skipped medication because of prices. Our conclusion? America can do better.Tagged with: Commonwealth Fund, Health Affairs, Obamacare