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1.  A Longitudinal Study of Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco Dependence Treatments in Massachusetts and Associated Decreases in Hospitalizations for Cardiovascular Disease 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000375.
Thomas Land and colleagues show that among Massachusetts Medicaid subscribers, use of a comprehensive tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit was followed by a substantial decrease in claims for hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction and acute coronary heart disease.
Background
Insurance coverage of tobacco cessation medications increases their use and reduces smoking prevalence in a population. However, uncertainty about the impact of this coverage on health care utilization and costs is a barrier to the broader adoption of this policy, especially by publicly funded state Medicaid insurance programs. Whether a publicly funded tobacco cessation benefit leads to decreased medical claims for tobacco-related diseases has not been studied. We examined the experience of Massachusetts, whose Medicaid program adopted comprehensive coverage of tobacco cessation medications in July 2006. Over 75,000 Medicaid subscribers used the benefit in the first 2.5 years. On the basis of earlier secondary survey work, it was estimated that smoking prevalence declined among subscribers by 10% during this period.
Methods and Findings
Using claims data, we compared the probability of hospitalization prior to use of the tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit with the probability of hospitalization after benefit use among Massachusetts Medicaid beneficiaries, adjusting for demographics, comorbidities, seasonality, influenza cases, and the implementation of the statewide smoke-free air law using generalized estimating equations. Statistically significant annualized declines of 46% (95% confidence interval 2%–70%) and 49% (95% confidence interval 6%–72%) were observed in hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction and other acute coronary heart disease diagnoses, respectively. There were no significant decreases in hospitalizations rates for respiratory diagnoses or seven other diagnostic groups evaluated.
Conclusions
Among Massachusetts Medicaid subscribers, use of a comprehensive tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit was associated with a significant decrease in claims for hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction and acute coronary heart disease, but no significant change in hospital claims for other diagnoses. For low-income smokers, removing the barriers to the use of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy has the potential to decrease short-term utilization of hospital services.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. Globally, it is responsible for one in ten deaths among adults. In developed countries, the death toll is even higher—in the USA and the UK, for example, one in five deaths are caused by cigarette smoking. In the USA alone, where a fifth of adults smoke, smoking accounts for more than 400,000 deaths every year; globally, smoking causes 5 million deaths per year. On average, smokers die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers, and half of all long-term smokers will die prematurely because of a smoking-related disease. These diseases include lung cancer, other types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases such as chronic airway obstruction, bronchitis, and emphysema. And, for every smoker who dies from one of these smoking-related diseases, another 20 will develop at least one serious disease because of their addiction to tobacco.
Why Was This Study Done?
About half of US smokers try to quit each year but most of these attempts fail. Many experts believe that counseling and/or treatment with tobacco cessation medications such as nicotine replacement products help smokers to quit. In the USA, where health care is paid for through private or state health insurance, there is some evidence that insurance coverage of tobacco cessation medications increases their use and reduces smoking prevalence. However, smoking cessation treatment is poorly covered by US health insurance programs, largely because of uncertainty about the impact of such coverage on health care costs. It is unknown, for example, whether the introduction of publicly funded tobacco cessation benefits decreases claims for treatment for tobacco-related diseases. In this longitudinal study (a study that follows a group of individuals over a period of time), the researchers ask whether the adoption of comprehensive coverage of tobacco cessation medications by the Massachusetts Medicaid program (MassHealth) in July 2006 has affected claims for treatment for tobacco-related diseases. During its first two and half years, more than 75,000 MassHealth subscribers used the tobacco cessation medication benefit and smoking prevalence among subscribers declined by approximately 10% (38.3% to 28.8%).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used MassHealth claims data and a statistical method called generalized estimating equations to compare the probability of hospitalization prior to the use of tobacco cessation medication benefit with the probability of hospitalization after benefit use among MassHealth subscribers. After adjusting for other factors that might have affected hospitalization such as influenza outbreaks and the implementation of the Massachusetts Smoke-Free Workplace Law in July 2004, there was a statistically significant annualized decline in hospital admissions for heart attack of 46% after use of the tobacco cessation medication benefit. That is, the calculated annual rate of admissions for heart attacks was 46% lower after use of the benefit than before among MassHealth beneficiaries. There was also a 49% annualized decline in admissions for coronary atherosclerosis, another smoking-related heart disease. There were no significant changes in hospitalization rates for lung diseases (including asthma, pneumonia, and chronic airway obstruction) or for seven other diagnostic groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, among MassHealth subscribers, the use of a tobacco cessation medication benefit was followed by a significant decrease in claims for hospitalization for heart attack and for coronary atherosclerosis but not for other diseases. It does not, however, show that the reduced claims for hospitalization were associated with a reduction in smoking because smoking cessation was not recorded by MassHealth. Furthermore, it is possible that the people who used the tobacco cessation medication benefit shared other characteristics that reduced their chances of hospitalization for heart disease. For example, people using tobacco cessation medication might have been more likely to adhere to prescription schedules for medications such as statins that would also reduce their risk of heart disease. Finally, these findings might be unique to Massachusetts, so similar studies need to be undertaken in other states. Nevertheless, the results of this study suggest that, for low-income smokers, removing financial barriers to the use of smoking cessation medications has the potential to produce short-term decreases in the use of hospital services that will, hopefully, outweigh the costs of comprehensive tobacco cessation medication benefits.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000375.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health has information on all aspects of smoking and health, including advice on how to quit
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site provides advice about quitting smoking; more advice on quitting is provided by Smokefree
The American Heart Association provides information on heart disease, including advice on how to quit smoking (in several languages)
Information about MassHealth is available, including information on smoking and tobacco use prevention
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000375
PMCID: PMC3000429  PMID: 21170313
2.  Can Broader Diffusion of Value-Based Insurance Design Increase Benefits from US Health Care without Increasing Costs? Evidence from a Computer Simulation Model 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(2):e1000234.
Using a computer simulation based on US data, R. Scott Braithwaite and colleagues calculate the benefits of value-based insurance design, in which patients pay less for highly cost-effective services.
Background
Evidence suggests that cost sharing (i.e.,copayments and deductibles) decreases health expenditures but also reduces essential care. Value-based insurance design (VBID) has been proposed to encourage essential care while controlling health expenditures. Our objective was to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID on US health care benefits and costs.
Methods and Findings
We used a published computer simulation of costs and life expectancy gains from US health care to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID. Two scenarios were analyzed: (1) applying VBID solely to pharmacy benefits and (2) applying VBID to both pharmacy benefits and other health care services (e.g., devices). We assumed that cost sharing would be eliminated for high-value services (<$100,000 per life-year), would remain unchanged for intermediate- or unknown-value services ($100,000–$300,000 per life-year or unknown), and would be increased for low-value services (>$300,000 per life-year). All costs are provided in 2003 US dollars. Our simulation estimated that approximately 60% of health expenditures in the US are spent on low-value services, 20% are spent on intermediate-value services, and 20% are spent on high-value services. Correspondingly, the vast majority (80%) of health expenditures would have cost sharing that is impacted by VBID. With prevailing patterns of cost sharing, health care conferred 4.70 life-years at a per-capita annual expenditure of US$5,688. Broader diffusion of VBID to pharmaceuticals increased the benefit conferred by health care by 0.03 to 0.05 additional life-years, without increasing costs and without increasing out-of-pocket payments. Broader diffusion of VBID to other health care services could increase the benefit conferred by health care by 0.24 to 0.44 additional life-years, also without increasing costs and without increasing overall out-of-pocket payments. Among those without health insurance, using cost saving from VBID to subsidize insurance coverage would increase the benefit conferred by health care by 1.21 life-years, a 31% increase.
Conclusion
Broader diffusion of VBID may amplify benefits from US health care without increasing health expenditures.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
More money is spent per person on health care in the US than in any other country. US health care expenditure accounts for 16.2% of the gross domestic product and this figure is rising. Indeed, the increase in health care costs is outstripping the economy's growth rate. Consequently, US policy makers and providers of health insurance—health care in the US is largely provided by the private sector and is paid for through private health insurance or through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid—are looking for better ways to control health expenditures. Although some health care cost reductions can be achieved by increasing efficiency, controlling the quantity of health care consumed is an essential component of strategies designed to reduce health expenditures. These strategies can target health care providers (for example, by requiring primary care physicians to provide referrals before their patients' insurance provides cover for specialist care) or can target consumers, often through cost sharing. Nowadays, most insurance plans include several tiers of cost sharing in which patients pay a larger proportion of the costs of expensive interventions than of cheap interventions.
Why Was This Study Done?
Cost sharing decreases health expenditure but it can also reduce demand for essential care and thus reduce the quality of care. Consequently, some experts have proposed value-based insurance design (VBID), an approach in which the amount of cost sharing is set according to the “value” of an intervention rather than its cost. The value of an intervention is defined as the ratio of the additional benefits to the additional costs of the intervention when compared to the next best alternative intervention. Under VBID, cost sharing could be waived for office visits necessary to control blood pressure in people with diabetes, which deliver high-value care, but could be increased for high-tech scans for dementia, which deliver low-value care. VBID has been adopted by several private health insurance schemes and its core principal is endorsed by US policy makers. However, it is unclear whether wider use of VBID is warranted. In this study, the researchers use a computer simulation of the US health care system to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID on US health care benefits and costs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used their computer simulation to estimate the impact of applying VBID to cost sharing for drugs alone and to cost sharing for drugs, procedures, and other health care services for one million hypothetical US patients. In their simulation, the researchers eliminated cost sharing for services that cost less than US$100,000 per life-year gained (high-value services) and increased cost-sharing for services that cost more than US$300,000 per life-year gained (low-value services); cost-sharing remained unchanged for intermediate- or unknown-value services. With the current pattern of cost sharing, 60% of health expenditure is spent on low-value services and health care increases life expectancy by 4.70 years for an annual per person expenditure of US$5,688, the researchers report. With widespread application of VBID to cost sharing for drugs alone, health care increased life expectancy by an additional 0.03 to 0.05 years without increasing costs. With widespread application of VBID to cost sharing for other health care services, health care increased life expectancy by a further 0.24 to 0.44 years without additional costs. Finally, if the costs saved by applying VBID were used to subsidize insurance for the 15% of the US population currently without health insurance, the benefit conferred by health care among these people would increase by 1.21 life-years.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study depend on the many assumptions included in the computer simulation, which, although complex, is a greatly simplified representation of the US health care system. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that if VBID were used more widely within the US health care system to encourage the use of high-value services, it might be possible to amplify the benefits from US health care without increasing health expenditures. Importantly, the money saved by VBID could be used to help fund universal insurance, a central aim of US health care reform. More research is needed, however, to determine the value of various health care interventions and to investigate whether other ways of linking value to cost sharing might yield even better gains in life expectancy at little or no additional cost.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000234.
Wikipedia has a page on health care in the United States (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Families USA works to promote high-quality affordable health care for all Americans and provides information about all aspects of US health care and about US health care reforms
The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid provides information on the major government health insurance programs and on US national health expenditure statistics
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000234
PMCID: PMC2821897  PMID: 20169114
3.  Changes in Drug Utilization during a Gap in Insurance Coverage: An Examination of the Medicare Part D Coverage Gap 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(8):e1001075.
Jennifer Polinski and colleagues estimated the effect of the "coverage gap" during which US Medicare beneficiaries are fully responsible for drug costs and found that the gap was associated with a doubling in discontinuing essential medications.
Background
Nations are struggling to expand access to essential medications while curbing rising health and drug spending. While the US government's Medicare Part D drug insurance benefit expanded elderly citizens' access to drugs, it also includes a controversial period called the “coverage gap” during which beneficiaries are fully responsible for drug costs. We examined the impact of entering the coverage gap on drug discontinuation, switching to another drug for the same indication, and drug adherence. While increased discontinuation of and adherence to essential medications is a regrettable response, increased switching to less expensive but therapeutically interchangeable medications is a positive response to minimize costs.
Methods and Findings
We followed 663,850 Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Part D or retiree drug plans with prescription and health claims in 2006 and/or 2007 to determine who reached the gap spending threshold, n = 217,131 (33%). In multivariate Cox proportional hazards models, we compared drug discontinuation and switching rates in selected drug classes after reaching the threshold between all 1,993 who had no financial assistance during the coverage gap (exposed) versus 9,965 multivariate propensity score-matched comparators with financial assistance (unexposed). Multivariate logistic regressions compared drug adherence (≤80% versus >80% of days covered). Beneficiaries reached the gap spending threshold on average 222 d ±79. At the drug level, exposed beneficiaries were twice as likely to discontinue (hazard ratio [HR]  = 2.00, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.64–2.43) but less likely to switch a drug (HR  = 0.60, 0.46–0.78) after reaching the threshold. Gap-exposed beneficiaries were slightly more likely to have reduced adherence (OR  = 1.07, 0.98–1.18).
Conclusions
A lack of financial assistance after reaching the gap spending threshold was associated with a doubling in discontinuing essential medications but not switching drugs in 2006 and 2007. Blunt cost-containment features such as the coverage gap have an adverse impact on drug utilization that may conceivably affect health outcomes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, more effective drugs for more diseases become available. But the availability of so many drugs poses a problem. How can governments provide their citizens with access to essential medications but control drug costs? Many different approaches have been tried, among them the “coverage gap” or “donut hole” approach that the US government has incorporated into its Medicare program. Medicare is the US government's health insurance program for people aged 65 or older and for younger people with specific conditions. Nearly 50 million US citizens are enrolled in Medicare. In 2006, the government introduced a prescription drug insurance benefit called Medicare Part D to help patients pay for their drugs. Until recently, beneficiaries of this scheme had to pay all their drug costs after their drug spending reached an initial threshold in any calendar year ($2,830 in 2010). Beneficiaries remained in this coverage gap (although people on low incomes received subsidies to help them pay for their drugs) until their out-of-pocket spending reached a catastrophic coverage spending threshold ($4,550 in 2010) or a new year started, after which the Part D benefit paid for most drug costs. Importantly, the 2010 US health reforms have mandated a gradual reduction in the amount that Medicare Part D enrollees have to pay for their prescriptions when they reach the coverage gap.
Why Was This Study Done?
Three to four million Medicare Part D beneficiaries reach the coverage gap every year (nearly 15% of all Part D beneficiaries). Supporters of the coverage gap concept argue that withdrawal of benefits increases beneficiaries' awareness of medication costs and encourages switching to cost-effective therapeutic options. However, critics argue that the coverage gap is likely to lead to decreased drug utilization, increased use of health services, and adverse outcomes. In this study, the researchers examine the impact of entering the coverage gap on drug discontinuation, switching to another drug for the same indication, and drug adherence (whether patients take their prescribed drugs regularly).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers studied 663,850 Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Part D or in retiree drug plans (which provide coverage under a employer's group health plan after retirement; the retiree drug plans included in this study did not have coverage gaps) who made prescription claims in 2006 and/or 2007. A third of these individuals reached the gap spending threshold. The researchers used detailed statistical analyses to compare the drug discontinuation, switching, and adherence rates of 1,993 beneficiaries who had no financial assistance during the coverage gap (exposed beneficiaries) with those of 9,965 matched beneficiaries who had financial assistance during the coverage gap (unexposed). On average, beneficiaries reached the gap spending threshold 222 days into the year (mid August). In a drug-level analysis, exposed beneficiaries were twice as likely to discontinue a drug and slightly more likely to have reduced drug adherence than unexposed beneficiaries but 40% less likely to switch a drug after reaching the threshold. Similar results were obtained in a beneficiary-level analysis in which discontinuation, switching, and adherence rates were considered in terms of the complete drug regimen of individual beneficiaries.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, among the Medicare beneficiaries investigated, a lack of financial assistance to pay for drugs after reaching the coverage gap spending threshold led to a doubling in the rate of drug discontinuation and a slight reduction in drug adherence. Surprisingly, lack of financial assistance resulted in a decrease in drug switching even though the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services advise patients to consider switching to generic or low-cost drugs. Importantly, the researchers estimate that, for the whole Medicare population, the lack of financial assistance to pay for drugs could result in an additional 18,000 patients discontinuing one or more prescription drug per year. Although this study did not directly investigate the effect of the coverage gap on patient outcomes, these findings suggest that this and other blunt cost-containment approaches could adversely affect health outcomes through their effects on drug utilization. Thus, insurance strategies that specifically promote the use of drugs with high benefit but low cost might be a better approach for governments seeking to improve the health of their citizens while reining in drug costs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001075.
The US Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid provides information on all aspects of Medicare, including general advice on bridging the coverage gap and an information sheet on bridging the coverage gap in 2011
Medicare.gov, the official US government website for Medicare, provides information on all aspects of Medicare (in English and Spanish), including a description of Part D prescription drug coverage
An information sheet from the Kaiser Family Foundation explains the key changes to the Medicare Part D drug benefit coverage gap that were introduced in the 2010 health care reforms
MedlinePlus provides links to further information about Medicare (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001075
PMCID: PMC3156689  PMID: 21857811
4.  How Effective Are Copayments in Reducing Expenditures for Low-Income Adult Medicaid Beneficiaries? Experience from the Oregon Health Plan 
Health Services Research  2008;43(2):515-530.
Objectives
To determine the impact of introducing copayments on medical care use and expenditures for low-income, adult Medicaid beneficiaries.
Data Sources/Study Setting
The Oregon Health Plan (OHP) implemented copayments and other benefit changes for some adult beneficiaries in February 2003.
Study Design
Copayment effects were measured as the “difference-in-difference” in average monthly service use and expenditures among cohorts of OHP Standard (intervention) and Plus (comparison) beneficiaries.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
There were 10,176 OHP Standard and 10,319 Plus propensity score-matched subjects enrolled during November 2001–October 2002 and May 2003–April 2004 that were selected and assigned to 59 primary care-based service areas with aggregate outcomes calculated in six month intervals yielding 472 observations.
Results
Total expenditures per person remained unchanged (+2.2 percent, p = .47) despite reductions in use (−2.7 percent, p<.001). Use and expenditures per person decreased for pharmacy (−2.2 percent, p<.001; −10.5 percent, p<.001) but increased for inpatient (+27.3 percent, p<.001; +20.1 percent, p = .03) and hospital outpatient services (+13.5 percent, p<.001; +19.7 percent, p<.001). Ambulatory professional (−7.7 percent, p<.001) and emergency department (−7.9 percent, p = .03) use decreased, yet expenditures remained unchanged (−1.5 percent, p = .75; −2.0 percent, p = .68, respectively) as expenditures per service user rose (+6.6 percent, p = .13; +7.9 percent, p = .03, respectively).
Conclusions
In the Oregon Medicaid program applying copayments shifted treatment patterns but did not provide expected savings. Policy makers should use caution in applying copayments to low-income Medicaid beneficiaries.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2007.00824.x
PMCID: PMC2442363  PMID: 18248405
Medicaid; cost-sharing; medical expenditures
5.  Increasing Time Costs and Copayments for Prescription Drugs: An Analysis of Policy Changes in a Complex Environment 
Health services research  2011;46(3):900-919.
Objective
To estimate the effect of two separate policy changes in the North Carolina Medicaid program; the first reduced prescription lengths from 100 to 34 days' supply and the second increased copayments for brand name medications.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Medicaid claims data were obtained from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for January 1, 2000 – December 31, 2002.
Study Design
We used a pre-post controlled partial difference-in-difference-in-differences (DDD) design to examine the effect of the policy change on adults in North Carolina; adult Medicaid recipients from Georgia served as controls. Outcomes examined include medication adherence and Medicaid expenditures.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
Data were aggregated to the person-quarter level. Individuals in HMOs, nursing homes, pregnant or deceased in the quarter were excluded.
Principal Findings
Both policies decreased medication adherence. The days' supply policy had a much larger effect on adherence than did the copayment increase. Total Medicaid spending declined from the days' supply policy but the copayment policy resulted in a net increase in Medicaid expenditures.
Conclusions
Although Medicaid costs decreased with the change in days supply policy, these savings were due to reduced adherence to these chronic medications. Additional research should examine the effect of these policy changes from the perspective of Medicaid enrollees.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2010.01237.x
PMCID: PMC3087836  PMID: 21306363
Medicaid; prescription drugs; chronic medications; days' supply
6.  Increasing Time Costs and Copayments for Prescription Drugs: An Analysis of Policy Changes in a Complex Environment 
Health Services Research  2011;46(3):900-919.
Objective
To estimate the effect of two separate policy changes in the North Carolina Medicaid program: (1) reduced prescription lengths from 100 to 34 days' supply, and (2) increased copayments for brand name medications.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Medicaid claims data were obtained from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for January 1, 2000–December 31, 2002.
Study Design
We used a pre–post controlled partial difference-in-difference-in-differences design to examine the effect of the policy change on adults in North Carolina; adult Medicaid recipients from Georgia served as controls. Outcomes examined include medication adherence and Medicaid expenditures.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
Data were aggregated to the person-quarter level. Individuals in HMOs, nursing homes, pregnant, or deceased in the quarter were excluded.
Principal Findings
Both policies decreased medication adherence. The days' supply policy had a much larger effect on adherence than did the copayment increase. Total Medicaid spending declined from the days' supply policy, but the copayment policy resulted in a net increase in Medicaid expenditures.
Conclusions
Although Medicaid costs decreased with the change in days supply policy, these savings were due to reduced adherence to these chronic medications. Additional research should examine the effect of these policy changes from the perspective of Medicaid enrollees.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2010.01237.x
PMCID: PMC3087836  PMID: 21306363
Medicaid; prescription drugs; chronic medications; days' supply
7.  Utilization of the medical librarian in a state Medicaid program to provide information services geared to health policy and health disparities 
Objective: The role of two solo medical librarians in supporting Medicaid programs by functioning as information specialists at regional and state levels is examined.
Setting: A solo librarian for the Massachusetts Medicaid (MassHealth) program and a solo librarian for the New England States Consortium Systems Organization (NESCSO) functioned as information specialists in context to support Medicaid policy development and clinical, administrative, and program staff for state Medicaid programs.
Brief Description: The librarian for MassHealth initially focused on acquiring library materials and providing research support on culturally competent health care and outreach, as part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care Standards. The NESCSO librarian focused on state Medicaid system issues surrounding the implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The research focus expanded for both the librarians, shaping their roles to more directly support clinical and administrative policy development. Of note, the availability and dissemination of information to policy leaders facilitated efforts to reduce health disparities. In Massachusetts, this led to a state legislative special commission to eliminate health disparities, which released a report in November 2005. On a regional level, the NESCSO librarian provided opportunities for states in New England to share ideas and Medicaid program information. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare are working with NESCSO to explore the potential for using the NESCSO model for collaboration for other regions of the United States.
Results/Outcomes: With the increased attention on evidence-based health care and reduction of health disparities, medical librarians are called on to support a variety of health care information needs. Nationally, state Medicaid programs are being called on to provide coverage and make complex medical decisions regarding the delivery of benefits. Increasing numbers of beneficiaries and shrinking Medicaid budgets demand effective and proactive decision making to provide quality care and to accomplish the missions of state Medicaid programs. In this environment, the opportunities for information professionals to provide value and knowledge management are increasing.
PMCID: PMC1435841  PMID: 16636710
8.  Cost-Effectiveness of Preventing Loss to Follow-up in HIV Treatment Programs: A Côte d'Ivoire Appraisal 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000173.
Based on data from West Africa, Elena Losina and colleagues predict that interventions to reduce dropout rates from HIV treatment programs (such as eliminating copayments) will be cost-effective.
Background
Data from HIV treatment programs in resource-limited settings show extensive rates of loss to follow-up (LTFU) ranging from 5% to 40% within 6 mo of antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation. Our objective was to project the clinical impact and cost-effectiveness of interventions to prevent LTFU from HIV care in West Africa.
Methods and Findings
We used the Cost-Effectiveness of Preventing AIDS Complications (CEPAC) International model to project the clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of LTFU-prevention programs from a payer perspective. These programs include components such as eliminating ART co-payments, eliminating charges to patients for opportunistic infection-related drugs, improving personnel training, and providing meals and reimbursing for transportation for participants. The efficacies and costs of these interventions were extensively varied in sensitivity analyses. We used World Health Organization criteria of <3× gross domestic product per capita (3× GDP per capita = US$2,823 for Côte d'Ivoire) as a plausible threshold for “cost-effectiveness.” The main results are based on a reported 18% 1-y LTFU rate. With full retention in care, projected per-person discounted life expectancy starting from age 37 y was 144.7 mo (12.1 y). Survival losses from LTFU within 1 y of ART initiation ranged from 73.9 to 80.7 mo. The intervention costing US$22/person/year (e.g., eliminating ART co-payment) would be cost-effective with an efficacy of at least 12%. An intervention costing US$77/person/year (inclusive of all the components described above) would be cost-effective with an efficacy of at least 41%.
Conclusions
Interventions that prevent LTFU in resource-limited settings would substantially improve survival and would be cost-effective by international criteria with efficacy of at least 12%–41%, depending on the cost of intervention, based on a reported 18% cumulative incidence of LTFU at 1 y after ART initiation. The commitment to start ART and treat HIV in these settings should include interventions to prevent LTFU.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since the first reported case in 1981. Currently, about 33 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. Two-thirds of people infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV infects and destroys immune system cells, thereby weakening the immune system and rendering infected individuals susceptible to infection. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART), a mixture of antiretroviral drugs that suppress the replication of the virus in the body, is used to treat and prevent HIV infection. ART is expensive but major international efforts by governments, international organizations, and funding bodies have increased ART availability. According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, at least 9.7 million people in low- and middle-income countries need ART and as of 2007, 3 million of those people had reliable access to the drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although ART is an effective treatment for HIV, a large number of individuals who initiate ART do not receive long-term follow-up care. These patients are generally sicker and have a worse long-term outcome than those who receive follow-up care. Loss to follow up (LTFU) is a significant problem that can undermine the benefits of expanding ART availability. Strategies to improve follow up concentrate on bringing lost patients back into the health care system, but such patients often die before they can be contacted. Prevention of LTFU might be a better strategy to improve HIV care after ART initiation, but there is little information available on which specific interventions might best accomplish this goal.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Given the lack of reported data on the actual costs and effectiveness of LTFU prevention, the researchers used a model to estimate the clinical impact and cost-effectiveness of several possible strategies to prevent LTFU in HIV-infected persons receiving ART in Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa. The researchers used the previously developed Cost-Effectiveness of Preventing AIDS Complications (CEPAC) computer simulation model and combined it with data from a program of ART delivery in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. They then projected the clinical benefits and the cost required to attain a given level of benefit (cost-effectiveness ratio) of different LTFU-prevention strategies from the perspective of the payer (the organization that pays all the medical costs to provide care). Several interventions were considered, including reducing costs to patients (eliminating patient co-payments and paying for transportation) and increasing services to patients at their visits (improving staff training in HIV care, and providing meals at clinic times). LTFU was predicted to cause a 54.3%–58.3% reduction in the estimated life expectancy beyond age 37; patients continuing HIV care were predicted to live a further 144.7 months whie those lost to follow up by 1 year after ART initiation were predicted to live only for a further 73.9–80.7 months. LTFU-prevention strategies in the Côte d'Ivoire were deemed to be cost-effective if they cost less than $2,823 (which is 3× gross domestic product per capita) per year of life saved. The efficacy and cost of the different LTFU-prevention strategies varied in the analyses; stopping ART co-payment alone would be cost-effective at a cost of $22/person/year if it reduced LTFU rates by 12%, while including all the LTFU-prevention strategies described would be cost-effective at $77/person/year if they reduced LTFU-rates by 41%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings suggest that moderately effective strategies for preventing LTFU in resource-limited settings would improve survival, provide good value for money, and should be used to improve HIV treatment programs. Although modeling is valuable to explore the costs and effectiveness of LTFU-prevention strategies it cannot replace the need for more reported data to shed light on problems leading to LTFU and the prevention strategies required to combat it. Also, Côte d'Ivoire might not be representative of all West African countries or resource-limited settings. A similar analysis using data from other ART programs in different countries would be useful to provide better understanding of the impact of LTFU in HIV treatment programs. Finally, the research highlights the cost of second-line ART (a new antiretroviral drug combination for patients in whom first-line treatment fails) as a crucial issue. It is estimated that 5% of all people receiving ART in low- and middle-income countries receive second-line ART and these numbers are expected to increase. Second-line ART had major effects on cost-effectiveness, and a reduction in the cost of this treatment is critical in order to guarantee continued access to HIV treatment.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000173.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Gregory Bisson and Jeffrey Stringer
WHO provides information on disease prevention, treatment, and HIV/AIDS programs and projects
The UN Millennium Development Goals project site contains information on worldwide efforts to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS
aidsmap, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, provides information on HIV and supporting those living with HIV
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000173
PMCID: PMC2762030  PMID: 19859538
9.  Is 50 cent the price of the optimal copayment? - a qualitative study of patient opinions and attitudes in response to a 50 cent charge on prescription drugs in a publicly funded health system in Ireland 
Background
A 50 cent prescription levy was introduced in 2010 on the General Medical Services (GMS) scheme (Irish public health insurance). This study sought to examine patient attitudes and opinions surrounding the 50 cent copayment. Given the small momentary value of the prescription fee, these results are of interest to policymakers internationally who wish to reduce copayments rather than abolish them.
Methods
A qualitative research design was used; semi structured interviews were carried out. Twenty four GMS eligible participants were interviewed in 23 interviews. Fifteen females and 9 males took part. Ages varied from 31- >70 years. Patients were invited to be interviewed in both independent and chain community pharmacies in three types of setting; 1) a socially deprived urban area, 2) a suburban affluent area and 3) a rural area. The Framework method was used for data management and analysis using QSR International’s NVivo 9.2 qualitative data analysis software. The “Francis method” was used to test for data saturation.
Results
Results are of interest to the Irish context and also at a broader international level. Patients were mostly accepting of the prescription levy with some reservations concerning an increased price and the way in which generated revenue would be used by government. Participants identified waste of prescription drugs at the hand of patients (moral hazard), but there was discordant opinion on whether the 50 cent copayment would halt this moral hazard. Interviewees felt the levy was affordable, albeit some may suffer a financial impact more than others.
Conclusions
This qualitative study gives important insights into the experiences of GMS patients with regard to the prescription levy. Information regarding the appropriateness of a 50 cent copayment as a symbolic copayment needs to be confirmed by quantitative analysis. Further insight is required from a younger population.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-16
PMCID: PMC3549780  PMID: 23305316
Qualitative research; Copayment; Health policy; Adherence; Ireland
10.  Access to and Use of $4 Generic Programs in Medicare 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2012;27(10):1251-1257.
BACKGROUND
Although four-dollar programs ($4 per 30-day supply for selected generic drugs) have become important options for seniors to obtain affordable medications, little is known about access to these programs and the characteristics of those who use them.
OBJECTIVES
We quantify access to $4 programs based on driving distance; evaluate factors affecting the program use and potential cost-savings associated with switching to $4 programs in Medicare.
DESIGN
Observational study.
SETTING
US Medicare Part D data, 5% random sample, 2007
PARTICIPANTS
347,653 elderly beneficiaries without Medicaid coverage or low-income subsidies.
MAIN MEASURES
We evaluated how use of $4 programs was affected by driving distance to the store and the beneficiary’s demographic and socioeconomic status, insurance coverage, health status, comorbidities, and medication use. For those who did not use the $4 programs, we calculated potential savings from switching to $4 generics.
KEY RESULTS
Eighty percent of seniors in Medicare Part D filled prescriptions for generic drugs that were commonly available at $4 programs. Among them, only 16.3% filled drugs through $4 programs. Beneficiaries who lived in poor areas, had less insurance, more co-morbidities, and used more drugs and lived closer to $4 generic retail pharmacies, were more likely to use these programs. Blacks were less likely to use the program relative to Whites (15.0% vs. 16.4%; OR = 0.75, 95% CI 0.71–0.80). While 53.2% of nonusers would save by switching to $4 program after incorporating travelling costs, 58% of those who could save would have net annual out-of-pocket savings of less than $20.
CONCLUSIONS
The take-up rate of $4 programs was low in 2007 among Medicare beneficiaries. As more stores offer $4 programs and increasing numbers of drugs become generic, more beneficiaries could potentially benefit, as could the Medicare program.
doi:10.1007/s11606-012-1993-9
PMCID: PMC3445678  PMID: 22311333
Medicare; low-cost generic drugs; pharmaceuticals
11.  Utilization, Spending, and Price Trends for Short- and Long-Acting Beta-Agonists and Inhaled Corticosteroids in the Medicaid Program, 1991–2010 
American Health & Drug Benefits  2011;4(3):140-149.
Background
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that afflicts millions of people and accounts for substantial utilization of healthcare resources in most industrialized countries, including in the United States. However, the exact cost and utilization of anti-asthma medications in Medicaid in the past 2 decades have not been well studied. Considering the safety issues surrounding the long-acting beta-agonists, guideline updates, and the increase in asthma prevalence, understanding anti-asthma medication prescribing trends is important to payers and patients.
Goal
The purpose of this study was to analyze the utilization and spending trends for anti-asthmatic agents in the US Medicaid program over the past 2 decades.
Methods
This study was based on a retrospective, descriptive analysis of trends in utilization of and spending on anti-asthma medications, including short-acting beta-agonists, inhaled corticosteroids, long-acting beta-agonists, and inhaled corticosteroid/long-acting beta-agonist combinations. Quarterly utilization and expenditure data were obtained from the national Medicaid pharmacy files provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from quarter 1 of 1991 through quarter 2 of 2010. Average reimbursement per prescription was calculated each quarter as a proxy for drug price.
Results
The total number of prescriptions for the studied anti-asthma medications rose from 8.9 million in 1991 to 15.6 million in 2009, peaking at 20.8 million in 2005, the year before Medicare and Medicaid dual-eligible beneficiaries were moved to Medicare Part D. From 1991 to 2009, Medicaid spending on anti-asthma medications overall rose from $180.7 million to $1.3 billion, and spending on inhaled corticosteroid/long-acting beta-agonist combinations rose from $52.8 million in 2001—their first year on the market—to $411.7 million in 2009. The average price per prescription has risen in all the anti-asthma drug classes: overall, spending per prescription has increased 4-fold between 1991 and 2009, significantly faster than the consumer price index (57.5%) over the same period. In quarter 2 of 2010, Medicaid spent more on the combination medication fluticasone-salmeterol—$60 million—than on any other anti-asthma medication.
Conclusion
Anti-asthma medications are a major and growing expense for state Medicaid programs and can be expected to be the same for Medicare Part D in the future. Increased disease prevalence has in part contributed to the rise in pharmacotherapy cost. Nevertheless, drug therapy is crucial for managing asthma and asthma exacerbations.
PMCID: PMC4105711  PMID: 25126346
12.  The Financial Toxicity of Cancer Treatment: A Pilot Study Assessing Out-of-Pocket Expenses and the Insured Cancer Patient's Experience 
The Oncologist  2013;18(4):381-390.
The experiences of insured cancer patients requesting copayment assistance and the impact of health care expenses on well-being and treatment are examined. Insured patients undergoing cancer treatment and seeking copayment assistance were found to experience considerable subjective financial burden and were found to alter care to defray out-of-pocket expenses.
Learning Objectives
Describe the experiences of insured cancer patients requesting copayment assistance in order to better understand the challenges of underinsurance.Describe the impact of costs on the well being of insured cancer patients.Evaluate the impact of costs on the treatment received by insured cancer patients.
Purpose.
Cancer patients carry rising burdens of health care-related out-of-pocket expenses, and a growing number of patients are considered “underinsured.” Our objective was to describe experiences of insured cancer patients requesting copayment assistance and to describe the impact of health care expenses on well-being and treatment.
Methods.
We conducted baseline and follow-up surveys regarding the impact of health care costs on well-being and treatment among cancer patients who contacted a national copayment assistance foundation along with a comparison sample of patients treated at an academic medical center.
Results.
Among 254 participants, 75% applied for drug copayment assistance. Forty-two percent of participants reported a significant or catastrophic subjective financial burden; 68% cut back on leisure activities, 46% reduced spending on food and clothing, and 46% used savings to defray out-of-pocket expenses. To save money, 20% took less than the prescribed amount of medication, 19% partially filled prescriptions, and 24% avoided filling prescriptions altogether. Copayment assistance applicants were more likely than nonapplicants to employ at least one of these strategies to defray costs (98% vs. 78%). In an adjusted analysis, younger age, larger household size, applying for copayment assistance, and communicating with physicians about costs were associated with greater subjective financial burden.
Conclusion.
Insured patients undergoing cancer treatment and seeking copayment assistance experience considerable subjective financial burden, and they may alter their care to defray out-of-pocket expenses. Health insurance does not eliminate financial distress or health disparities among cancer patients. Future research should investigate coverage thresholds that minimize adverse financial outcomes and identify cancer patients at greatest risk for financial toxicity.
doi:10.1634/theoncologist.2012-0279
PMCID: PMC3639525  PMID: 23442307
Neoplasms; Cost; Chemotherapy; Indigency; Medical; Quality of health care; Financial support
13.  Modestly Increased Use of Colonoscopy When Copayments Are Waived 
BACKGROUND & AIMS
Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening with colonoscopy often requires expensive copayments from patients. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandated elimination of copayments for CRC screening, including colonoscopy, but little is known about the effects of copayment elimination on use. The University of Texas employee, retiree, and dependent health plan instituted and promoted a waiver of copayments for screening colonoscopies in fiscal year (FY) 2009; we examined the effects of removing cost sharing on colonoscopy use.
METHODS
We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 59,855 beneficiaries of the University of Texas employee, retiree, and dependent health plan, associated with 16 University of Texas health and nonhealth campuses, ages 50 – 64 years at any point in FYs 2002–2009 (267,191 person-years of follow-up evaluation). The primary outcome was colonoscopy incidence among individuals with no prior colonoscopy. We compared the age- and sex-standardized incidence ratios for colonoscopy in FY 2009 (after the copayment waiver) with the expected incidence for FY 2009, based on secular trends from years before the waiver.
RESULTS
The annual incidence of colonoscopy increased to 9.5% after the copayment was waived, compared with an expected incidence of 8.0% (standardized incidence ratio, 1.18; 95% confidence interval, 1.14 –1.23; P < .001). After adjusting for age, sex, and beneficiary status, the copayment waiver remained significantly associated with greater use of colonoscopy, with an adjusted hazard ratio of 1.19 (95% confidence interval, 1.12–1.26).
CONCLUSIONS
Waiving copayments for colonoscopy screening results in a statistically significant, but modest (1.5%), increase in use. Additional strategies beyond removing financial disincentives are needed to increase use of CRC screening.
doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2012.02.027
PMCID: PMC3595312  PMID: 22401903
Colorectal Neoplasm; Cost Sharing; Early Detection; Colon Cancer
14.  Patented Drug Extension Strategies on Healthcare Spending: A Cost-Evaluation Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001460.
In a cost-evaluation analysis of pharmacy invoice data in one Canton in Switzerland, Nathalie Vernaz and colleagues find that “evergreening” strategies pursued by drug manufacturers have been successful in maintaining market share and contribute to increased overall healthcare costs.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Drug manufacturers have developed “evergreening” strategies to compete with generic medication after patent termination. These include marketing of slightly modified follow-on drugs. We aimed to estimate the financial impact of these drugs on overall healthcare costs and also to examine the impact of listing these drugs in hospital restrictive drug formularies (RDFs) on the healthcare system as a whole (“spillover effect”).
Methods and Findings
We used hospital and community pharmacy invoice office data in the Swiss canton of Geneva to calculate utilisation of eight follow-on drugs in defined daily doses between 2000 and 2008. “Extra costs” were calculated for three different scenarios assuming replacement with the corresponding generic equivalent for prescriptions of (1) all brand (i.e., initially patented) drugs, (2) all follow-on drugs, or (3) brand and follow-on drugs. To examine the financial spillover effect we calculated a monthly follow-on drug market share in defined daily doses for medications prescribed by hospital physicians but dispensed in community pharmacies, in comparison to drugs prescribed by non-hospital physicians in the community.
Estimated “extra costs” over the study period were €15.9 (95% CI 15.5; 16.2) million for scenario 1, €14.4 (95% CI 14.1; 14.7) million for scenario 2, and €30.3 (95% CI 29.8; 30.8) million for scenario 3. The impact of strictly switching all patients using proton-pump inhibitors to esomeprazole at admission resulted in a spillover “extra cost” of €330,300 (95% CI 276,100; 383,800), whereas strictly switching to generic cetirizine resulted in savings of €7,700 (95% CI 4,100; 11,100). Overall we estimated that the RDF resulted in “extra costs” of €503,600 (95% CI 444,500; 563,100).
Conclusions
Evergreening strategies have been successful in maintaining market share in Geneva, offsetting competition by generics and cost containment policies. Hospitals may be contributing to increased overall healthcare costs by listing follow-on drugs in their RDF. Therefore, healthcare providers and policy makers should be aware of the impact of evergreening strategies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The development of a new medical drug—from discovery of a new compound to regulatory approval for its use—can take many years and cost millions of dollars. In 1995 the World Trade Organization adopted an international law (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights—TRIPS) by which pharmaceutical companies can protect their intellectual property through patents. Under TRIPS, pharmaceutical companies are granted exclusive manufacturing rights for up to 20 years for each new drug, generating large revenues that often exceed initial investments costs, thus providing an incentive for pharmaceutical companies to continue to invest in the research and development of new drugs. However, recent stricter regulatory procedures for drug approval, national price control policies, and increased competition from generic manufacturers (that produce drugs similar to the brand drug once the patent has expired) have meant that pharmaceutical company profits have increasingly come under pressure.
Why Was This Study Done?
One of the tactics that pharmaceutical companies currently use in response to this situation is to extend their market monopoly. This practice is known as “evergreening” and refers to the situation in which pharmaceutical companies slightly change the formulation of their brand drug into “follow on” drugs, for example, by combining formulations or producing slow-release forms, so that they can extend the patent. The impact of such follow-on drugs on overall healthcare costs in high-resource settings is unclear and has received little attention. In this study, the researchers assessed the overall costs associated with the prescribing of follow-on drugs in the Swiss canton of Geneva.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified prescriptions of eight follow-on drugs issued by hospital and community pharmacists in Geneva between 2000 and 2008. To analyze the impact of evergreening strategies on healthcare spending, they calculated the market share score (an indicator of market competitiveness) for all prescriptions of the originally patented (brand) drug, the follow-on drug, and generic versions of the drug. The researchers then used hospital and community databases to analyze the costs of replacing brand and/or follow-on drugs with a corresponding generic drug (when available) under three scenarios (1) replacing all brand drug prescriptions, (2) replacing all follow-on drug prescriptions, and (3) replacing both follow-on and brand prescriptions.
Using these methods, the researchers found that over the study period, the number of patients receiving either a brand or follow-on drug increased from 56,686 patients in 2001 to 131,193 patients in 2008. The total cost for all studied drugs was €171.5 million, of which €103.2 million was for brand drugs, €41.1 million was for follow-on drugs, and €27.2 million was for generic drugs. Based on scenario 1 (all brand drugs being replaced by generics) and scenario 2 (all follow-on drugs being replaced by generics), over the study period, the healthcare system could have saved €15.9 million and €14.4 million in extra costs, respectively. The researchers also found some evidence that hospital prescribing patterns (through a restrictive drug formulary) influenced prescribing in the community: over the study period, the influence of hospital prescription patterns on the community resulted in an extra cost of €503,600 (mainly attributable to two drugs, esomeprazole and escitalopram). However, this influence also resulted in some savings because of a generic drug listed in the hospital formulary: use of the generic version of the drug cetirizine resulted in savings of €7,700.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in a high-income setting, evergreening strategies developed by pharmaceutical companies for follow-on drugs substantially contributed to an increase in overall healthcare costs. These findings also provide further evidence that policies encouraging prescribing of generic medicines could have substantial savings on healthcare expenditure and, if implemented in hospital formularies, could also influence prescribing outside of the hospital setting, resulting in further savings. However, in their analysis, the researchers assumed that the health outcomes of patients would be the same whatever type of drug they used (brand, generic, or follow-on), as they had no information on health outcomes. Nevertheless, this study provides useful information for healthcare providers and policy makers about the cost implications of the evergreening strategies used by the pharmaceutical industry, particularly for follow-on drugs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001460.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Aaron Kesselheim
Wikipedia provides an explanation of evergreening (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The World Trade Organization has detailed information on TRIPS
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001460
PMCID: PMC3672218  PMID: 23750120
15.  Medicaid Expansion Initiative in Massachusetts: Enrollment Among Substance-Abusing Homeless Adults 
American journal of public health  2013;103(11):2007-2013.
Objectives
We assessed whether homeless adults entering substance abuse treatment in Massachusetts were less likely than others to enroll in Medicaid after implementation of the MassHealth Medicaid expansion program in 1997.
Methods
We used interrupted time-series analysis in data on substance abuse treatment admissions from the Treatment Episode Data Set (1992–2009) to evaluate Medicaid coverage rates in Massachusetts and to identify whether trends differed between homeless and housed participants. We also compared Massachusetts data with data from 17 other states and the District of Columbia combined.
Results
The percentage of both homeless and housed people entering treatment with Medicaid increased approximately 21% after expansion (P = .01), with an average increase of 5.4% per year over 12 years (P = .01). The increase in coverage was specific to Massachusetts, providing evidence that the MassHealth policy was the cause of this increase.
Conclusions
Findings provide evidence in favor of state participation in the Medicaid expansion in January 2014 under the Affordable Care Act and suggest that hard-to-reach vulnerable groups such as substance-abusing homeless adults are as likely as other population groups to benefit from this policy.
doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301283
PMCID: PMC3828691  PMID: 24028262
16.  Impact of reference-based pricing for angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors on drug utilization 
Background
Increasing copayments for higher-priced prescription medications has been suggested as a means to help finance drug coverage for elderly patients, but evaluations of the impact of such policies are rare. The objective of this study was to analyze the effect of reference-based pricing of angiotensin- converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors on drug utilization, cost savings and potential substitution with other medication classes.
Methods
We analyzed 36 months of claims data from British Columbia for 2 years before and 1 year after implementation of reference-based pricing (in January 1997). The 119 074 patients were community-living Pharmacare beneficiaries 65 years of age or older who used ACE inhibitors during the study period. The main outcomes were changes over time in use of ACE inhibitors, use of antihypertensive drugs and expenditures for antihypertensive drugs, as well as predictors of medication switching related to reference-based pricing.
Results
We observed a sharp decline (29%) in the use of higher-priced cost-shared ACE inhibitors immediately after implementation of the policy (p < 0.001). After a transition period, the post-implementation utilization rate for all ACE inhibitors was 11% lower than projected from pre-implementation data. However, overall utilization of antihypertensives was unchanged (p = 0.40). The policy saved $6.7 million in pharmaceutical expenditures during its first 12 months. Patients with heart failure or diabetes mellitus who were taking a cost-shared ACE inhibitor were more likely to remain on the same medication after implementation of reference-based pricing (OR 1.12 [95% confidence interval, CI, 1.06–1.19] and 1.28 [95% CI 1.20–1.36] respectively). Patients with low-income status were more likely than those with high-income status to stop all antihypertensive therapy (OR 1.65 [95% CI 1.43–1.89]), which reflects a general trend toward discontinuation of therapy among these patients even before implementation of reference-based pricing.
Interpretation
Reference-based pricing in British Columbia achieved a sustained reduction in drug expenditures, and no changes in overall use of antihypertensive therapy were observed. Further research is needed on the overall health and economic effects of such policies.
PMCID: PMC99452  PMID: 11944760
17.  Trends in Patient Cost Sharing for Clinical Services Used as Quality Indicators 
Background
Patient copayments for all medical services have increased dramatically. There are few data available regarding how copayments have changed for services commonly considered to be quality indicators.
Objective
Describe the relative change in copayments for services used as quality indicators and interventions subject to programs to control utilization.
Design
A large claims database was used to assess copayment changes from 2001 to 2006 for selected drug and non-drug services in patient cohorts with specific chronic diseases.
Subjects
Approximately 5 million commercially-insured individuals enrolled in a variety of fee-for-service and capitated health plans.
Measurements
Copayment trends were calculated as the change in the average amount paid per unit service from 2001 to 2006.
Results
Out-of-pocket payments for services targeted by quality improvement initiatives increased substantially [>50%] and in a similar magnitude to interventions subject to programs to control their use. For prescription drugs, the trend was driven more by copayment increases for branded medications [$10 per prescription] than for generic drugs [$2 per prescription]. Copayments for non-drug preventive services rose modestly.
Conclusions
Benefit designers should consider reversing the trend of copayment increases for services considered to be indicators of high quality care.
doi:10.1007/s11606-009-1219-y
PMCID: PMC2839339  PMID: 20058193
copayments; costs; payments
18.  Simulated Value Based Insurance Design Applied to Statin Use by Medicare Beneficiaries with Diabetes 
Objective
To examine cost responsiveness and total costs associated with a simulated “value based” insurance design (VBID) for statin therapy in a Medicare population with diabetes.
Methods
Four-year panels constructed from the 1997–2005 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey selected by self-report or claims-based diagnoses of diabetes in Year 1, and use of statins in Year 2 (N= 899). We computed number of 30-day statin prescription fills, out-of-pocket (OOP) and third party drug costs, and Medicare Part A and B spending.
Methods
Multivariate ordinary least squares regression models predicted statins fills as a function of OOP costs, and a generalized linear model with log link predicted Medicare spending as a function of number of fills, controlling for baseline characteristics. Estimated coefficients were used to simulate changes in fills associated with copayment caps from $25 to $1, and to compute changes in 3rd-party payments and Medicare cost offsets associated with incremental fills. Analyses were stratified by patient cardiovascular event risk.
Results
A simulated OOP price of $25[$1] increased plan drug spending by $340[$794], and generated Medicare Part A/B savings of $262[$531]. Medicare Part A/B savings were greater for higher risk patients, generating a net savings for the plans.
Conclusions
Reducing statin copayments for Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes resulted in modestly increased use, and reduced medical spending. The VBID simulation strategy met financial feasibility criteria, but only for higher risk patients.
doi:10.1016/j.jval.2012.01.008
PMCID: PMC3864093  PMID: 22583449
diabetes; Medicare; medication adherence; cost offsets
19.  The impact of increasing patient prescription drug cost sharing on therapeutic classes of drugs received and on the health status of elderly HMO members. 
Health Services Research  1997;32(1):103-122.
OBJECTIVE: To assess the impact of increased prescription drug copayments on the therapeutic classes of drugs received and health status of the elderly. HYPOTHESES TESTED: Increased prescription drug copayments will reduce the relative exposure to, annual days use of, and prescription drug costs for drugs used in self-limiting conditions, but will not affect drugs used in progressive chronic conditions and will not reduce health status. STUDY DESIGN: Each year over a three-year period, one or the other of two well-insured Medicare risk groups in an HMO setting had their copayments per dispensing increased. Sample sizes ranged from 6,704 to 7,962. DATA SOURCES/DATA COLLECTION: Automated administrative data systems of the HMO were used to determine HMO eligibility, prescription drug utilization, and health status. ANALYSIS DESIGN: Analysis of variance or covariance was employed to measure change in dependent variables. FINDINGS: Relative exposure, annual days of use, and prescription drug costs for drugs used in self-limiting conditions and in progressive chronic conditions were not affected in a consistent manner across years by increases in prescription drug copayment. Health status may have been adversely affected. Larger increases in copayments appeared to generate more changes. CONCLUSIONS: Small changes in copayments did not appear to substantially affect outcomes. Large changes in copayments need further examination.
Images
PMCID: PMC1070172  PMID: 9108807
20.  Medicare Part D and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program: A Comparison of Prescription Drug Coverage 
Background
There is much debate currently about how to restructure the Medicare program to achieve better value for the money. Many have cited the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) as a model for reform.
Objective
To compare drug coverage and cost-sharing between Medicare Part D and the FEHBP plans.
Methods
A cross-sectional comparison was conducted of January 2009 data obtained from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Office of Personnel Management, and 3 health plan websites. Regression analysis and t-tests were used to examine drug coverage, copayment, and coinsurance amounts among Medicare Part D and FEHBP plans. The final study sample of Medicare Part D plans consisted of 19 formularies, covering 63% of total Part D enrollment. These 19 formularies represented 232 stand-alone prescription drug plans. In addition, 5 prescription drug plans or formularies in the FEHBP plans were included, which represents 70% of total FEHBP enrollment.
Results
The results of this study reveal that formulary coverage of the top drugs dispensed and sold in the United States in 2009 ranged from 72% to 94% (average, 84%) in Medicare Part D plans and from 85% to 99% (average, 94%) in the FEHBP plans (P <.01). The mean copayment for generic drugs in Medicare Part D plans was $4.53 compared with a mean of $7.67 (P <.05) in the FEHBP plans. The difference between the 2 programs in mean copayment for brand-name drugs was nonsignificant. For generic drugs, the mean coinsurance rate was 17% for Medicare Part D plans and a mean of 20% for the FEHBP plans (P <.05).
Conclusions
This analysis shows that there are differences in prescription drug coverage and cost-sharing among plans within Medicare Part D and the FEHBP. To avoid extreme increases in payroll taxes and other revenues or major cutbacks in services, Medicare must explore ways to change the healthcare system to achieve better value for the money. The experience of the FEHBP suggests a possible means of accomplishing this objective.
PMCID: PMC4031701  PMID: 24991346
21.  Impact of Multitiered Copayments on the Use and Cost of Prescription Drugs among Medicare Beneficiaries 
Health Services Research  2008;43(2):478-495.
Objectives
To assess the impact of multitiered copayments on the cost and use of prescription drugs among Medicare beneficiaries.
Data Sources
Marketscan 2002 Medicare Supplemental and Coordination of Benefits database and Plan Benefit Design database.
Study Design
The study uses cross-sectional variation in copayment structures among firms with a self-insured retiree health plan to measure the impact of number of copayment tiers on total and enrollee drug payments, number of prescriptions filled, and generic substitution. The study also assesses the effect of enrollee cost sharing on the cost and use of prescription medications for the long-term treatment of chronic conditions.
Data Collection Methods
We linked plan enrollment and benefit data with medical and drug claims for 352,760 Medicare beneficiaries with employer-sponsored retiree drug coverage.
Primary Findings
Medicare beneficiaries in three-tiered plans had 14.3 percent lower total drug expenditures, 14.6 percent fewer prescriptions filled, and 57.6 percent higher out-of-pocket costs than individuals in lower tiered plans. They also had fewer brand name and generic prescriptions filled, and a higher percentage of generics. The estimated price elasticity of demand for prescription drug expenditures was −0.23. Finally, for maintenance medications used for the long-term treatment of chronic conditions, members in three-tiered plans had 11.5 percent fewer prescriptions filled.
Conclusions
Higher tiered drug plans reduce overall expenditures and the number of prescriptions purchased by Medicare beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are less responsive to cost sharing incentives when using drugs to treat chronic conditions.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2007.00774.x
PMCID: PMC2442369  PMID: 18370964
Prescription drugs; cost sharing; Medicare
22.  Effects of Increased Patient Cost Sharing on Socioeconomic Disparities in Health Care 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2008;23(8):1131-1136.
Background
Increasing patient cost sharing is a commonly employed mechanism to contain health care expenditures.
Objective
To explore whether the impact of increases in prescription drug copayments differs between high- and low-income areas.
Design
Using a database of 6 million enrollees with employer-sponsored health insurance, econometric models were used to examine the relationship between changes in drug copayments and adherence with medications for the treatment of diabetes mellitus (DM) and congestive heart failure (CHF).
Subjects
Individuals 18 years of age and older meeting prespecified diagnostic criteria for DM or CHF were included.
Measurements
Median household income in the patient’s ZIP code of residence from the 2000 Census was used as the measure of income. Adherence was measured by medication possession ratio: the proportion of days on which a patient had a medication available.
Results
Patients in low-income areas were more sensitive to copayment changes than patients in high- or middle-income areas. The relationship between income and price sensitivity was particularly strong for CHF patients. Above the lowest income category, price responsiveness to copayment rates was not consistently related to income.
Conclusions
The relationship between medication adherence and income may account for a portion of the observed disparities in health across socioeconomic groups. Rising copayments may worsen disparities and adversely affect health, particularly among patients living in low-income areas.
doi:10.1007/s11606-008-0614-0
PMCID: PMC2517964  PMID: 18443882
health care costs; socioeconomic factors; vulnerable populations; health insurance; pharmaceutical care
23.  Cost-Effectiveness of Providing Full Drug Coverage to Increase Medication Adherence in Post–Myocardial Infarction Medicare Beneficiaries 
Circulation  2008;117(10):1261-1268.
Background
Effective therapies for the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease–related events are significantly underused, and attempts to improve adherence have often yielded disappointing results. Elimination of patient out-of-pocket costs may be an effective strategy to enhance medication use. We sought to estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness of providing full coverage for aspirin, β-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, and statins (combination pharmacotherapy) to individuals enrolled in the Medicare drug benefit program after acute myocardial infarction.
Methods and Results
We created a Markov cost-effectiveness model to estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness of providing Medicare beneficiaries with full coverage for combination pharmacotherapy compared with current coverage under the Medicare Part D program. Our analysis was conducted from the societal perspective and considered a lifetime time horizon. In a sensitivity analysis, we repeated our analysis from the perspective of Medicare. In the model, post–myocardial infarction Medicare beneficiaries who received usual prescription drug coverage under the Part D program lived an average of 8.21 quality-adjusted life-years after their initial event, incurring coronary heart disease–related medical costs of $114 000. Those who received prescription drug coverage without deductibles or copayments lived an average of 8.56 quality-adjusted life-years and incurred $111 600 in coronary heart disease–related costs. Compared with current prescription drug coverage, full coverage for post–myocardial infarction secondary prevention therapies would result in greater functional life expectancy (0.35 quality-adjusted life-year) and less resource use ($2500). From the perspective of Medicare, full drug coverage was highly cost-effective ($7182/quality-adjusted life-year) but not cost saving.
Conclusions
Our analysis suggests that providing full coverage for combination therapy to post–myocardial infarction Medicare beneficiaries would save both lives and money from the societal perspective.
doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.735605
PMCID: PMC2722033  PMID: 18285564
cost-benefit analysis; drugs; epidemiology; insurance; myocardial infarction; prevention
24.  The Effect of Transitioning to Medicare Part D Drug Coverage In Seniors Dually Eligible for Medicare and Medicaid 
Objectives
In January, 2006, patients dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare (Dual Eligibles) were automatically enrolled in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. This transition affected formulary coverage for many patients, causing widespread concern about compromised access to essential medications. We evaluated medication use, out-of-pocket spending and medication switching during the transition period for Dual Eligibles.
Setting and Participants
We used patient-level pharmacy dispensing data for Dual Eligibles older than 65 from January 2005 to December 2006 from a large pharmacy chain with stores in 34 states.
Design and Measurements
Changes in utilization, patient copayments, and medication switching were analyzed using interrupted time trend analyses. We evaluated utilization and spending for five study drugs: clopidogrel, proton pump inhibitors, warfarin, and statins (essential drugs covered by Part D plans) and benzodiazepines (not covered through Part D, but potentially covered through Medicaid).
Results
Drug use for 13,032 Dual Eligibles was evaluated. There was no significant effect of the transition to Medicare Part D on use of all study drugs, including the uncovered benzodiazepines. Cumulative reductions were seen in copayments for all covered drugs after implementation of Part D, ranging from 25% annually for PPIs to 53% for warfarin. However, there was a larger increase in copayments, 91% annually, for benzodiazepines after the transition. We found a 3.0 times greater rate of switching medications for the proton pump inhibitors, but no significant change in the other study drug classes.
Conclusion
These findings in a single, large pharmacy chain indicate that the transition plan for Dual Eligibles led to less medication discontinuation and switching than many had expected. The substantially increased cost-sharing for benzodiazepines highlights the importance of implementing a thoughtful transition plan when executing such a national policy.
doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2008.02025.x
PMCID: PMC2607038  PMID: 19093930
Medicare Part D; prescription drug coverage; elderly; Medicaid; Dual Eligibles
25.  Effect of Copayments on Use of Outpatient Mental Health Services Among Elderly Managed Care Enrollees 
Medical care  2011;49(3):281-286.
Background
Recent parity legislation will require many insurers and the federal Medicare program to reduce mental health copayments, so that they are equivalent to copayments for other covered services. The effect of changes in mental health cost sharing has not been well studied, particularly among elderly populations.
Objective
To examine the consequences of increasing and decreasing copayments on the use of outpatient mental health services among the elderly.
Research Design
Difference-in-differences (DID) design comparing the use of outpatient mental health care in Medicare plans that changed mental health copayments compared with concurrent trends in matched control plans with unchanged copayments.
Study Population
A total of 1,147,916 enrollees aged 65 years and older in 14 Medicare plans that increased copayments by ≥25%, 3 plans that decreased copayments by ≥25%, and 17 matched control plans with unchanged copayments.
Results
In 14 plans that increased mental health copayments from a mean of $14.43 to $21.07, the proportion of enrollees who used mental health services remained at 2.2% in the year before and year after the increase (adjusted DID, 0.1 percentage points; 95% confidence interval, 0.0–0.1). Among 3 plans that decreased copayments from a mean of $25.00 to $8.33, utilization rates were 1.2% before and after the decrease (adjusted DID, 0.1 percentage points; 95% confidence interval, −0.2 to 0.3). Stratified analyses by age, gender, race, and presence of a disability yielded similar results.
Conclusions
Few older adults in managed care plans used outpatient mental health services. Among this population, increasing or decreasing mental health copayments had negligible effects on the likelihood of using outpatient mental health care.
doi:10.1097/MLR.0b013e31820399f6
PMCID: PMC3970196  PMID: 21301371
Cost sharing; mental health services/utilization; health insurance benefits; Medicare; managed care

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