Nearly 13 Million Americans Skipped Prescription Drugs Due to Costs Before COVID

Almost 12.8 million adults delayed or did not get prescription drugs in 2018-19 due to costs, including about 3.8 million privately insured nonelderly adults and 2.3 million elderly Medicare beneficiaries, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Urban Institute based on 2018–19 data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. About 9.5% of adults who were uninsured all year reported unmet prescription drug needs, compared with 4.9% of Medicare beneficiaries and 5.6% of nonelderly Medicaid enrollees. More than one-quarter of adults with Medicare and 5.3% of privately insured people spent more than 1% of their family incomes on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs. In November, the House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act, which includes provisions seeking to bring down drug costs, but the bill’s fate in the Senate is in peril.


NOTES: FPL refers to federal poverty level. “Other race” includes non-Hispanic adults who are not white or Black or are more than one race.

SOURCE: “In the Years before the COVID-19 Pandemic, Nearly 13 Million Adults Delayed or Did Not Get Needed Prescription Drugs Because of Costs,” Urban Institute & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This story was reprinted from AIS Health’s biweekly publication RADAR on Drug Benefits.

Jinghong Chen

Jinghong Chen Reporter

Jinghong produces infographics and data stories on health insurance and specialty pharmacy for AIS Health. She graduated from Missouri School of Journalism with a focus on data journalism and international reporting. Before joining AIS in 2018, she worked at WBEZ, Al Jazeera English and The New York Times Chinese.

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