Is High Cost Preventing Access to Psychiatric Medication?
Within the mental health community, most members will identify medication as an essential component in their process of recovery, or psychiatric treatment. Medication is the key enabler of recovery, providing those suffering from mental illness with a way for symptoms to subside, while paving the pathway towards creating a sustainable and satisfying life for the patient.
However, these medications will not be valuable to the patient unless they are taken. With the lack of open access and by placing the medication out of their financial reach, patients are often led to abandon their prescriptions at the pharmacy, risking the opportunity for recovery.
A survey conducted by Robin A. Cohen and Maria A. Villarroel, two NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics) researchers, has identified that nearly 8% of Americans fail to take their medication as prescribed because the cost is too high. In fact, almost 14% of those below the federal poverty level actually view abandoning these medications as simply another way to save money, despite the outcomes being more dangerous compared to the consequences of clipping coupons. Considering the implementation of co-payments, many patients discontinue or reduce the care they receive as the costs affiliated with co-payments rise. The RAND Health Insurance Experiment actually discovered that medical visits decreased by 41% among low-income adults when they were required to use a co-payment option. The issue with this money-saving solution is that it does very little for the patient financially and can actually worsen their health in the long run.
When applied to the mental health community, this roadblock to medication can result in a rapid decompensation, risking hospitalization and the use of other, more costly, forms of medical treatment. Even if the patient has access temporarily, the disruption in medication caused by high healthcare costs can lead to damaging outcomes. According to Mental Health America:
Two Key Studies showed that disruptions in medication continuity are associated with significant adverse clinical outcomes. A total of 69% of patients with medication access problems had adverse events compared to 40% for patients with no access problems. These adverse events include:
- 20% had emergency room visits
- 11% were hospitalized
- 23% had side effects significantly worsen – interfering with functioning and out-weighing therapeutic benefits
- 22% had an increase in suicidal ideation or behavior.
- 15% had an increase in violent ideation or behavior.
- 3% became homeless for more than 48 hours.
Finally, in several illnesses, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, relapse is associated with loss of brain function, aggravation of other functional deficits, and worsening of the course of the disease, limiting prospects for a productive, satisfying life for the patient. (Wyatt, et. al., First Episode Schizophrenia: Early Intervention and Medication Discontinuation in the Context of Course and Treatment, British Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 172, Supplement 33, 1998).
Medication Savings Plans Could Be The Answer
Of course to every problem, there are proposed solutions. One such example is ScriptSave® WellRx. They offer a savings program available to those who cannot afford costly medications. The program provides a free card that offers savings of up to 80% off the original price, allowing those in precarious financial situations to receive the valuable medication they need. With the number one barrier of seeking treatment being the rising cost of healthcare services, ScriptSave WellRx allows the patient to regain control over their health and wallet. The program also provides a savings calculator on their website where consumers can compare prices and discounts based on local pharmacies. For even more convenience, ScriptSave WellRx members have access to a free mobile app that allows patients to get medication discounts on their mobile device, without printing out a card.
While some discounts merely provide a fund for a rainy day, ScriptSave WellRx provides a discount that invests in your health. Your health and well-being shouldn’t have to come last on your list of budget priorities and ScriptSave doesn’t expect it to. At the end of the day, these discounts might save more than just money. By giving consumers access to the proper medication, ScriptSave WellRx seeks to lift the roadblocks of furthering treatment and provide consumers with a chance of better health.
Put simply, ScriptSave WellRx is not just saving money, it is saving lives.
 (The impact of Medicare Part D on Medication Access and Continuity:
Preliminary Findings from a National Study of Dual Eligible Psychiatric Patients; West, Joyce C. Ph.D., MPP, Director, American Psychiatric Research Network; American Psychiatric Association; and Medicaid Prescription Drug Policies and Psychopharmacologic Treatment Access and Continuity: Findings From Ten States; West, Joyce C. Ph.D., MPP, Director, American Psychiatric Research Network; American Psychiatric Association)