Patients who get prescriptions through VA less likely to skip doses, study finds

The Department of Veterans Affairs' model of purchasing prescription drugs may improve patient adherence to medications and lower healthcare costs, according to a study published Jan. 6 in Health Affairs

The study found that people who get their prescriptions from the VA were less likely than other insured Americans to skip doses or medicines altogether, according to STAT. VA enrollees were also less likely to delay filling prescriptions because they couldn't afford them. 

The study found that 6.1 percent of VA enrollees said the cost of prescription drugs forced them to skip medicines, compared to 10.9 percent of other insured Americans. The gap was even larger for patients with serious conditions. 

The VA system may also reduce racial and economic disparities in accessing prescription drugs. The study found that, among African Americans, 4.9 percent of VA enrollees said they could not afford their prescription, compared to 10.3 percent of those insured by other entities. The trend was similar among Hispanics, as 2.8 percent of VA enrollees said they could not afford their prescriptions, compared to 8.6 percent of those otherwise insured. 

The study attributed the results to the way the VA purchases drugs, which involves a combination of regulation, negotiation and a national formulary, according to STAT. The VA can buy drugs for about 40 percent less than Medicare Part D can. 

The analysis comes as several Democrat presidential candidates have proposed "Medicare for All" plans, which typically involve policies similar to the VA.

All researchers in the study belong to Physicians for a National Health Program, a nonprofit that advocates for a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health insurance program, according to STAT

The study is limited in some ways, including that VA enrollees may have lower out-of-pocket costs for physician visits and hospitalizations, which would free up household income and decrease the cost of failing to take prescriptions. Researchers were also unable to determine whether people were forgoing needed medicines, according to STAT

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