Prescription drug coverage, health, and medication acquisition among seniors with one or more chronic conditions

UMMS Affiliation

Meyers Primary Care Institute; Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Chronic Disease; Cross-Sectional Studies; Diabetes Mellitus; Female; Health Care Surveys; *Health Status; Humans; Insurance Coverage; Insurance, Pharmaceutical Services; Male; Medicare Part C; Multivariate Analysis; Self Administration; Socioeconomic Factors; Washington


Health Services Research | Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences | Primary Care


BACKGROUND: The unabated rise in medication costs particularly affects older persons with chronic conditions that require long-term medication use, but how prescription benefits affect medication adherence for such persons has received limited study.

OBJECTIVE: We sought to study the relationship among prescription benefit status, health, and medication acquisition in a sample of elderly HMO enrollees with 1 or more common, chronic conditions.

RESEARCH DESIGN: We implemented a cross-sectional cohort study using primary survey data collected in 2000 and administrative data from the previous 2 years.

SUBJECTS: Subjects were aged 67 years of age and older, continuously enrolled in a Medicare + Choice program for at least 2 years, and diagnosed with 1 or more of hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, and coronary artery disease (n = 3073).

MEASURES: Outcomes were the mean daily number of essential therapeutic drug classes and refill adherence.

RESULTS: In multivariate models, persons without a prescription benefit acquired medications in 0.15 fewer therapeutic classes daily and experienced lower refill adherence (approximately 7 fewer days of necessary medications during the course of 2 years) than those with a prescription benefit. A significant interaction revealed that, among those without a benefit, persons in poor health acquired medications in 0.73 more therapeutic classes daily than persons in excellent health; health status did not significantly influence medication acquisition for those with a benefit.

CONCLUSIONS: Coverage of prescription drugs is important for improving access to essential medications for persons with the studied chronic conditions. A Medicare drug benefit that provides unimpeded access to medications needed to treat such conditions may improve medication acquisition and, ultimately, health.


Med Care. 2004 Nov;42(11):1056-65.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Medical care


At the time of publication, Barry Saver was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID