AHRQ Research Helps AARP Advocate for Expanded Drug Coverage for Low-Income Seniors
AARP has used findings from AHRQ-sponsored research to advocate for expanded prescription drug coverage for low-income persons and against restrictions on prescription drug coverage. David Gross, until recently a Senior Policy Advisor with AARP's Public Policy Institute and currently Manager of Health and Supportive Services with AARP's Outreach and Service Department, called the work of AHRQ researcher Stephen B. Soumerai and colleagues a "landmark study."
Gross reported that AARP has recently used the Soumerai study in its advocacy efforts against curtailment of drug coverage in the TennCare program, Tennessee's Medicaid managed care program. AARP attorneys also called Soumerai as a witness in a federal court trial that, among other things, challenged the state's proposal to cap TennCare drug coverage at two brand drugs and five drugs overall each month.
The AHRQ-funded study conducted by Soumerai and colleagues found that after the New Hampshire Medicaid program imposed a reimbursement cap of three medications per month, standard doses of essential medications among New Hampshire Medicaid beneficiaries over age 60 with chronic illness fell by 34 percent. Hit especially hard by the cap were those who had a greater number of precap medications, greater number of coexisting illnesses, longer hospitalizations, and greater use of outpatient services. Soumerai and colleagues concluded that arbitrary drug limits clearly reduce use of necessary medications by the frailest community-dwelling older people which may, in turn, lead to increased hospitalizations or nursing home admissions.
Previously, AARP had used the study in advocacy to provide or expand prescription drug coverage for low-income persons in New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Texas, Illinois, and other states. In addition, the study has been cited in several policy papers prepared by the AARP Public Policy Institute that discuss the impacts of inadequate prescription drug coverage on low-income consumers.