Be careful! 'What you sow, is what you reap.' Health plans primary responsibility is the patients they insure, but they have policies that "restrain prescription medication spending by shifting costs toward patients. It is unknown how these policies have affected children with chronic illness." Here's research that proves that cost control may not be about managed care--it can adversely affect one's health.
Research Objective To analyze the association of medication cost sharing with medication and hospital services utilization among children with asthma, the most prevalent chronic disease of childhood.
Research Design, Setting, and Patients Retrospective study of insurance claims for 8834 US children with asthma who initiated asthma control therapy between 1997 and 2007. Using variation in out-of-pocket costs for a fixed “basket” of asthma medications across 37 employers, we estimated multivariate models of asthma medication use, asthma-related hospitalization, and emergency department (ED) visits with respect to out-of-pocket costs and child and family characteristics.
Main Outcome Measures Asthma medication use, asthma-related hospitalizations, and ED visits during 1-year follow-up.
Results The mean annual out-of-pocket asthma medication cost was $154 (95% CI, $152-$156) among children aged 5 to 18 years and $151 (95% CI, $148-$153) among those younger than 5 years. Among 5913 children aged 5 to 18 years, filled asthma prescriptions covered a mean of 40.9% of days (95% CI, 40.2%-41.5%). During 1-year follow-up, 121 children (2.1%) had an asthma-related hospitalization and 220 (3.7%) had an ED visit. Among 2921 children younger than 5 years, mean medication use was 46.2% of days (95% CI, 45.2%-47.1%); 136 children (4.7%) had an asthma-related hospitalization and 231 (7.9%) had an ED visit. An increase in out-of-pocket medication costs from the 25th to the 75th percentile was associated with a reduction in adjusted medication use among children aged 5 to 18 years (41.7% [95% CI, 40.7%-42.7%] vs 40.3% [95% CI, 39.4%-41.3%] of days; P = .02) but no change among younger children. Adjusted rates of asthma-related hospitalization were higher for children aged 5 to 18 years in the top quartile of out-of-pocket costs (2.4 [95% CI, 1.9-2.8] hospitalizations per 100 children vs 1.7 [95% CI, 1.3-2.1] per 100 in bottom quartile; P = .004) but not for younger children. Annual adjusted rates of ED use did not vary across out-of-pocket quartiles for either age group.
Conclusion Greater cost sharing for asthma medications was associated with a slight reduction in medication use and higher rates of asthma hospitalization among children aged 5 years or older.
Karaca-Mandic P, Jena AB, Joyce GF, Goldman SP. "Out-of-Pocket Medication Costs and Use of Medications and Health Care Services Among Children With Asthma." JAMA 2012;307(12):1284-1291.
In other words, were this cost-sharing a true 'managed care' technique, it would be about cost-effectiveness, cost-benefit or cost-utility. Instead, it only seems to be merely about cost-minimization.
Strengthening the Health Insurance System: How Health Insurance Reform Will Help America’s Older and Senior Women
"While all Americans shoulder the burden of rising health care costs and increasingly inadequate health insurance, the 17 million older women (ages 55-64) and 21 million senior women (ages 65 and older) in America have unique situations and health care needs that make them particularly susceptible to rising costs – at a time in their lives when access to affordable health care is increasingly important. Health insurance reform will remove these hurdles to ensure that older and senior women, along with all other Americans, get the quality, affordable health care they deserve."
Rustgi SD, Doty MM, Collins SR. Women at Risk: Why Many Women are Forgoing Needed Health Care. The Commonwealth Fund, 2009.
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey Data. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008.
Kaiser Family Foundation. “Medicare’s Role for Women.” Kaiser Family Foundation. June, 2009.
Jencks SF, Williams MV, Coleman EA. Rehospitalizations among patients in the Medicare fee-for-service program. NEJM 2009;360:1418-28.