Lower copays help ensure medication adherence

When insurance companies charge higher copays, parents don't fill their children's asthma medications as frequently as recommended, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study analyzed insurance claims over 10 years for almost 9,000 children who were prescribed asthma medications. Families with asthmatic children between 5- and 18-years old with higher medication copays had slightly fewer filled prescriptions (five days fewer a year) and slightly more asthma-related hospitalizations (2.4 percent compared to 1.7 percent) than families with less expensive copays, reported Reuters Health.

"We know from many studies that insurance obviously facilitates access to care, and that includes prescription drugs," study author and University of Minnesota Professor Pinar Karaca-Mandic told the Minnesota Public Radio.

However, because the difference between prescriptions filled was small, the study findings suggest that insurers looking to increase medication adherence should take additional steps beyond cost-saving strategies like lowering copays. "By lowering medication prices, we may be able to increase adherence somewhat, and we may be able to reduce hospitalizations somewhat," Anupam Jena, study researcher from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told Reuters Health. "But the magnitude of the impact of out-of-pocket prices is not large."

Instead, the study authors suggested that insurers take such steps as referring asthmatic children to specialists, providing families with written treatment plans and better explaining the importance of regular medication use, Reuters Health noted. Insurers also should consider fully covering services and interventions that promote overall child health because it could help prevent chronic diseases from developing as the children grow up, reported MedPage Today.

To learn more:
- read the JAMA study
- see the MedPage Today article
- check out the Reuters Health article
- read the Minnesota Public Radio article