Number of filled Medicaid prescriptions rose 19% under ACA, study finds

States that initially expanded Medicaid under the ACA saw a rise in the number of prescriptions filled by beneficiaries, according to a new study.

The study comes from researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. For the study, researchers examined pharmacy transactions data from 2013 to 2015 to determine how the 2014 ACA Medicaid expansions affected prescription drug use in expansion and nonexpansion states, according to a news release.

They found within the first year and a half of expansion, prescription use among Medicaid beneficiaries increased by 19 percent in expansion states compared to nonexpansion states. Researchers said this represents roughly seven additional annual prescriptions per newly enrolled beneficiary.

The study also looked at effects within specific drug classes in expansion states compared to nonexpansion states. Researchers said over the first year and a half of the ACA's Medicaid expansion, Medicaid-paid prescriptions among diabetes medications increased 24 percent in expansion states, while Medicaid-paid prescriptions for contraceptives increased 22 percent and Medicaid-paid prescriptions for cardiovascular drugs increased 21 percent. Smaller increases were seen among several classes more consistent with acute conditions such as allergies and infections, they said. According to the study, increases in prescription drug use in expansion states were larger in geographical areas with a higher number of uninsured people prior to the ACA.

Additionally, researchers said they found evidence suggesting increases in prescription drug use were greater in areas with larger Hispanic and black populations.


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