It is becoming more common that Medicare beneficiaries across the country are skipping their medication or taking them irregularly. Experts cite that this is due to drug prices continuing to rise, while elderly Americans’ fixed income remains the same. With the rise of medication prices, Medicare patients face the tough decision of continuing to pay an out-of-pocked cost of around $400 a month or not adhere to their recommended treatment plans. Unfortunately, many of these medications that patients cannot afford are vital to their health and well-being.
What’s worse is that patients realize they should be taking their medications properly, but cannot simply because they often can’t afford them. Without corrective and proactive actions, this medication problem is most likely to get even worse.
Studies have shown that patients that are part of high-deductible plans are more likely to delay recommended care from their physicians and according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately one-fourth of U.S. workers were enrolled in high-deductible plans in the last year.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that approximately 90 percent of Americans believe that drug companies need to be more transparent and flexible with how high they set their prices, while 80 percent feel that the federal government should negotiate with those companies for more affordable prices for Medicare beneficiaries. Overall, about 80 percent of Americans polled think that prescription drug prices are unreasonable.
This week, president-elect of the AAFP, Michael Munger, M.D., wrote a blog post discussing his thoughts towards the growing issue of patients not being able to afford their medications and what can be done to tackle this issue.
Specifically, Munger discusses how family physicians are concerned with this ongoing patient care issue and the AAFP is investigating a multipronged advocacy approach to address its inequities. This week, AAFP officers met with representatives from the White House, CMS, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and several other congressional staff members to discuss issues such as the implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, the Medicare physician fee schedule, chronic care management, and funding for primary care programs.
Thankfully, there is a possible solution for PCPs and other healthcare professionals looking to help their patients become more adherent. With telehealth and chronic care management programs, like Wellbox, doctors are able to become aware of any medication problems sooner than physicians who only see their patients every few months, or in emergencies. The 20-minute calls with healthcare professionals allow Medicare patients to share their concerns on their treatment plans or if they are having trouble affording or consistently taking their medications. CCM programs are designed to provide high quality care to patients on a monthly basis in place of in-person visits every few months, and patients find these check-ins are making a difference in their health and overall well-being.
As Munger said, the AAFP plans to continue to work with Congress and other stakeholders in order to find a solution that allows patients to have affordable access to the medications they need. For the time being, CCM and telehealth are convenient ways for physicians to remain in contact with their patients to ensure that they are receiving the best quality of care that they can.