Elderly Patients' Preferences and Experiences with Providers in Managing Their Drug Costs

Published in: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, v. 55, no. 12, Dec. 2007, p. 1974-1980

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2006

by Chien-Wen Tseng, R. Adams Dudley, Robert H. Brook, Emmett B. Keeler, W. Neil Steers, G. Caleb Alexander, Beth E. Waitzfelder, Carol Mangione

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OBJECTIVES: To determine whether elderly patients with high drug expenditures want and receive providers' help in managing drug costs. DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey. SETTING: A Medicare managed care plan (>400,000 members) in one state in 2002. PARTICIPANTS: One thousand one hundred six seniors (62% response rate) sampled so that half exceeded caps on their drug benefits the previous year, and all had total drug expenditures in the top quartile of members in their cap level. MEASUREMENTS: Participants' preferences and experiences with providers discussing costs and participation in choosing medications. RESULTS: Two-thirds reported difficulty paying for medications, and one-fourth decreased medication use because of cost. Most wanted providers to ask about medication affordability (81%), consider cost (86%), offer choices (70%), and to persuade them or decide for them which medication to use (88%), but few said providers asked about affordability (17%), usually or always discussed prices (19%), or offered choices (45%), although nearly all said providers chose their medications (93%). Sixty-two percent had asked providers for help with drug costs, although 34% who used less medication because of cost or had difficulty paying for medications had not asked for help. CONCLUSION: Providers should be aware that elderly patients want their help in managing drug costs but do not always receive it or ask for help when they need it. Providers could improve communication by initiating conversations about cost and by asking patients about preferences when prescribing.

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