Fewer Americans reporting financial barriers to health care
We haven’t had much good news involving American access to affordable medicine lately. Generic drug prices have been spiking, specialty med prices are out of control and the right to import prescription drugs remains in jeopardy. That’s why we were pleasantly surprised by the findings of a new Commonwealth Fund report, which seems to indicate that the situation may be starting to improve.
The Commonwealth Fund’s biennial survey measures the rate at which Americans are insured as well as their reported health care affordability and barriers to access. In the 2014 survey, for the first time since 2001, there was a significant decline in the number of people reporting cost-related access issues and financial problems related to medical expenses.
At RxRights, we regularly report a statistic from the previous Commonwealth Fund report: 50 million Americans aged 19-64 didn’t fill a prescription due to cost in 2012. In the new report, we are pleased to see that the number of people not filling their scripts in 2014 fell to 35 million.
It’s been a long while since we’ve seen any progress on this front. But while this steep decline is largely positive, the numbers are still concerning. A big proportion of the population—19 percent of adults aged 19-64—didn’t get their needed medicine because they couldn’t afford it. In addition, this measurement doesn’t take into account adults over age 64, folks on fixed incomes who are taking the most meds. We’d like to see a study that reports on how many older adults are going without meds due to cost.
Why are we seeing this reversal? No matter your opinion on the contentious Affordable Care Act, the fact is that it increased the number of insured, particularly among those with lower incomes. Thus, financial barriers to general health care are starting to recede.
These numbers are heartening and we hope this is the beginning of a downward trend. Being insured and having access to care is a good start. But as we know, the cost of medicine continues to rise. And unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act will not do much to control the cost of medicine.
In the meantime, those who continue to struggle to afford their medication may consider importation from legitimate international online pharmacies or visit our resources page.