NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Seniors Without Drug Coverage

March 13, 2001

Spending on drugs for seniors without coverage was 45 percent lower in 1998 than for those with insurance, and the uninsured used nearly a third fewer prescriptions. The disparity was even greater among seniors in poor health and those with chronic health problems, said the report, compiled by researchers at the Health Care Financing Administration, which runs Medicare.

  • Seniors with drug coverage filled an average 24.4 prescriptions in 1998, up 9 percent from the year before, and Medicare enrollees without drug insurance filled 16.7 prescriptions in 1998, down 2.4 percent from the year before.
  • Insured seniors received $999 worth of drugs in 1998, but spent only $325 out of pocket, while seniors without drug coverage received $546 worth of drugs, all paid for out of pocket.
  • The spending gap between those with drug insurance and the uninsured increased from $329 in 1997 to $453 the following year.
  • About 73 percent of the 38 million Medicare enrollees in 1998 had some form of drug coverage, leaving more than 10 million without insurance.
  • About half of seniors did not have continuous drug coverage throughout 1996 and 1997, and 20 percent did not have insurance at all during that period.

The study is based on a random sampling of Medicare beneficiaries interviewed every four months.

Source: Charles Ornstein, "Survey shows influence of insurance on seniors; Those without drug coverage often do without," Dallas Morning News, March 12, 2001; John Poisal and Lauren Murray (both with the Health Care Financing Administration), "Growing Differences Between Medicare Beneficiaries With And Without Drug Coverage," Health Affairs, March-April 2001.

For Health Affairs text


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