HealthDay News — According to a report published on August 17, 2016 in Health Affairs, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has increased prescription drug use, while decreasing out-of-pocket spending.

Andrew Mulcahy, PhD, from the RAND Corporation in Arlington, Virginia, and colleagues examined how ACA-linked gains in health insurance coverage have affected populations at risk for high health spending. Using prescription transaction data for a panel of 6,700,000 prescription drug users, the authors compared changes in coverage, prescription fills, plan spending, and out-of-pocket spending before and after implementation of the ACA’s coverage expansions.

The researchers found that, compared with 2013, there was a 30% reduction in the proportion of this population uninsured in 2014. Compared with 2013, on average, in 2014, uninsured people who gained private coverage filled 28% more prescriptions and had 29% less out-of-pocket spending per prescription. Larger increases in fill rates and reductions in out-of-pocket spending per prescription were seen for those who gained Medicaid coverage (79 and 58%, respectively). Larger decreases in out-of-pocket spending were seen for people who gained coverage and had at least 1 of the chronic conditions listed in the report versus those who did not have at least one condition.

“By reducing financial barriers to care, the ACA has increased treatment rates while reducing out-of-pocket spending, particularly for people with chronic conditions,” the authors write.

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Reference

Mulcahy A, Eibner C, Finegold K. Gaining Coverage Through Medicaid Or Private Insurance Increased Prescription Use And Lowered Out-Of-Pocket Spending. Health Aff (Millwood). 2016 August 17. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2016.0091. [Epub ahead of print]