Prescription drug coverage and seniors: how well are states closing the gap?

Health Aff (Millwood). Jul-Dec 2002;Suppl Web Exclusives:W253-68. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.w2.253.


As policymakers debate adding a drug benefit to Medicare, many states are attempting to provide drug coverage for low-income seniors through Medicaid and state-funded pharmacy assistance programs. This 2001 survey of seniors in eight states finds marked differences among states in the percentage of seniors with coverage and in the sources providing coverage. Among low-income seniors, a range of 20 percent (New York and California) to 38 percent (Michigan and Texas) lacked drug coverage. In all states Medicaid was an important source of coverage for the poor, but the depth of Medicaid drug coverage varied widely across states. Even states with pharmacy assistance programs fell far short of closing the prescription coverage gap for low-income seniors. Finally, the study finds that classifying beneficiaries as either having coverage or not misses major differences in depth of coverage, with some sources of coverage appearing only marginally better than no coverage at all. With erosion of state and private sources of prescription benefits expected, the findings speak to the need for a national policy solution.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S.
  • Data Collection
  • Drug Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Utilization Review
  • Financing, Personal
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage*
  • Insurance, Pharmaceutical Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medicaid / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Patient Compliance
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • State Health Plans / economics*
  • State Health Plans / organization & administration
  • State Health Plans / statistics & numerical data
  • United States