Making sense of the chronic disease epidemic in America

Making sense of the chronic disease epidemic in America

President Biden and lawmakers from both parties recently made proposals to reduce Americans' living expenses for insulin, which millions of patients, particularly the elderly, rely on to control their diabetes. Diabetes affects about one in four American adults over the age of 65, and access to insulin is a matter of life or death for many of these patients. So these proposals could literally provide life-saving relief to many Americans.

These cost-saving measures for insulin are promising. But they raise an important question: Why limit copay price limits to insulin alone? Six out of 10 American adults live with at least one chronic condition and four out of 10 live with two or more. For seniors in Medicare, the prevalence of chronic disease is even higher and for millions of people with fixed income, direct costs are increasingly problematic.

If the proposed co-payment cap of $ 35 per month makes sense for insulin - and it does - why not implement the same policies for medications that treat asthma, hypertension and other common chronic conditions and aim for Medicare where chronic diseases are so common. ?

Too many seniors struggle to afford the drugs they need to stay healthy. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, about one in three Americans with severe health conditions struggle to pay for their medications. Not to mention how these struggles affect adherence to doctor-prescribed treatments, health status, and overall well-being. This drives up Medicare spending and increases the burden on beneficiaries and their families.

When people stray from their prescribed medication schedule, the health consequences can be devastating. Medication non-compliance is estimated to cause 125,000 deaths each year in the United States and accounts for 10% of all hospital admissions.

Efforts to limit the cost of insulin to $35 are a step in the right direction. But given the scale of the affordability crisis, limiting these types of measures to a single class of drugs aimed at treating a single disease undermines both human and economic savings potential. Starting with Medicare, it makes sense to limit the direct costs of the drugs that people depend on to prevent the development and progression of chronic diseases.

Quotes from the second national day 2022

The most direct and effective way to help millions of Medicare beneficiaries with chronic diseases pay for their medications is to cover the direct costs of common chronic disease medications. Lawmakers may begin implementing a co-payment cap on out-of-pocket medications for chronic disease for Medicare Part D members, as many have suggested.

There are several reasons why lawmakers should support this approach. It would save countless lives and potentially reduce other Medicare health costs, such as hospitalizations. According to one estimate, drug non-compliance alone costs our healthcare system a whopping $ 289 billion annually. The policy would also provide seniors with much needed and visible financial assistance at the pharmacy counter during a period of record inflation.

More than half of Americans say an insulin limit of $ 35 is a top priority in a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey and a strict limit on the cost of insulin for patients is a commendable start. A more comprehensive version of this policy to help Medicare beneficiaries is likely to gain even more support. By providing the same support for people on Medicare with diabetes and other common chronic conditions, lawmakers can save even more lives and give seniors and their families the kind of bold action they want on prescription drugs.

Michael Mandel, PhD, is chief economist and vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute. Kenneth E. Thorpe, PhD, is professor of health policy at Emory University and chair of the Partnership to Address Chronic Disease.

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