Objective: To compare rates of cost-related medication underuse and other problems due to medication costs among Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) patients with rates among patients with Medicaid, private health insurance, Medicare, and no insurance coverage.
Study design: Nationwide survey.
Methods: A total of 4055 chronically ill patients completed an online questionnaire regarding cost-related adherence problems for medications used to treat 16 chronic illnesses. Respondents also reported whether they cut back on necessities due to medication costs, increased their debt burden to pay for prescriptions, and worried about how they would pay for their medications.
Results: Rates of cost-related medication underuse were lower among VA patients (12%) than among patients with Medicaid (25%; P =.0004), Medicare (22%; P =.001), or no insurance (35%; P < .0001). In multivariate analyses, patients with Medicare or no insurance coverage were more likely than VA patients to forego medication at least once per month due to cost (adjusted odds ratios of 3.4 and 3.9; both P < or = .001). Patients with Medicare or no insurance coverage also were more likely than VA patients to forego basic needs to pay medication costs, borrow money to pay for their treatments, and worry frequently about how they would pay for their medication.
Conclusion: The VA's prescription benefits may prevent problems due to medication costs. Studies assessing the impact of VA prescription coverage on health outcomes and service use will be needed to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of VA drug benefit policies.