Medication use among Medicare beneficiaries has increased and adherence has improved since the implementation of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit in 2006. However, the structure of the benefit, particularly, the coverage gap, is still problematic. It is critical to understand how beneficiaries with coexisting conditions respond to the coverage gap and whether their response differs by type of medications.
Aims of the Study
The paper aims to evaluate the effects of Medicare Part D’s coverage gap on drug regimens among beneficiaries with coexisting depression and heart failure (HF).
Drug utilization patterns of a 5% random sample of Medicare Part D beneficiaries with depression and HF in 2007 were observed. We compared drug use pattern pre and post coverage gap among three groups: no coverage, generic coverage, and full coverage due to low-income subsidies (LIS) and used propensity score weighting to adjust for difference across groups.
Beneficiaries with some drug coverage in the gap were more likely to enter the gap: 82% for LIS, 79% for generic-only and 58% for no coverage. Beneficiaries without drug coverage reduced their use of antidepressants by 5.0% (95% CI 1.7%-8.2%), and HF drugs by 9.4% (95% CI 7.2%-11.5%) after they entered the coverage gap. Those with generic coverage cut their brand-name drugs more than generic drugs but did not shift to generic drugs. However, adherence to antidepressants did not change; adherence to HF drugs reduced slightly, 2.5% (95% CI 1.2%-3.7%) in the no-coverage group and 2.6% (95% CI 1.3%-3.9%) in the generic-coverage group.
The coverage gap was associated with a modest reduction in number of prescriptions filled for depression and HF but it was not associated with a significant effect on adherence.
Implications for Health Policy
We found that beneficiaries with coexisting depression and HF were less likely to reduce their drug use than beneficiaries in general. In addition, the gap was not associated with a large reduction in adherence. It suggests that concerns about the coverage gap’s harmful effects on medication adherence, or comorbidities might be overstated.
Implications for Further Research
Further studies on how people make medication use decisions in the face of changes in benefits and how the coverage affects non-drug medical outcomes are warranted.