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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Harvard: When Denied Coverage, Many Americans Skip Prescribed Drugs

Nearly half of Americans whose insurance companies deny coverage of a particular drug they need simply go without the drug, according to a recent poll on income inequality in the U.S.

The poll, from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that most Americans have health insurance that includes prescription drug coverage. But, across all income groups, more than one third of the 1,885 respondents said that, over the previous year, their insurance plan denied coverage for a drug prescribed by a doctor for them or a household member. Among lower-income adults, nearly half said they were denied coverage for a particular drug.

“What you see is insurers are not paying for some drugs that physicians are recommending and that patients think they need,” said Dr. Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at Harvard Chan School, who directed the poll, said in a January 27, 2020 NPR article. “Half of the people who are lower or middle class are not getting them because they can’t afford to go out and pay for it themselves. It’s just not fair.”

Harvard Chan School’s Dr. Benjamin Sommers, professor of health policy and economics, was also quoted in the article. He said not getting necessary medication is a problem, especially for critical drugs like cholesterol-lowering statins or insulin to keep blood sugar under control. “There’s more and more evidence that having health insurance really does improve people’s health, and medications are one of the key parts of that because it is a mainstay of how we manage a lot of chronic conditions,” he said.

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