Patients with VA coverage less likely than other insured Americans to skip medication

A new study indicates that the pharmacy benefit of the Veterans Health Administration (VA) may serve as an effective model for curbing the cost of prescription drugs.

A new study indicates that the pharmacy benefit of the Veterans Health Administration (VA) may serve as an effective model for curbing the cost of prescription drugs. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the City University of New York at Hunter College found that VA patients are less likely than other insured consumers to go without needed medications, skip doses, or delay filling prescriptions due to unaffordability. The study also found that VA coverage reduced racial and economic disparities in prescription drug access. The VA can provide drugs to veterans with low—or no—patient copays because it purchases drugs at relatively low cost. VA uses a blend of regulations, bargaining with drug companies, and a national formulary. The investigators examined whether this benefit design lowered "cost-related medication non-adherence" by assessing national health surveys conducted from 2014 to 2017. Although VA enrollees were older, sicker, and less affluent than other insured Americans, fewer (6.1% of enrollees) reported that costs caused them to go without any medication in the course of a year, compared with 10.9% of non-VA patients. The differences were more prominent among patients with serious conditions such as heart disease (6.1% vs. 14.4%) and chronic lung disease (6.4% vs. 19.9%).