Helping Californians Access, Afford and Adhere to Quality Health Care will Have Dramatic Benefits

Difficult economic times are forcing many Californians to make difficult choices every day about whether to continue taking medication or to feed their families and pay rent, while many Californians are simply unable to afford quality health care.

Governor Brown’s recently proposed budget cuts, including reducing reimbursement rates and shifting more Californians into managed care, will make the strain even greater, and will have potentially deleterious health implications for California’s most vulnerable populations.

When patients do not adhere to their doctor-prescribed treatment regimes, we know that the health and economic costs are significant.

The New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI) has found that one-third to one-half of all patients do not properly take their medications due to financial constraints. Patients living with chronic illnesses such as heart and lung disease, cancer and diabetes are hit especially hard when they must take expensive medications simply to maintain their quality of life. To cope with high costs, some patients will skip doses so that their medicine lasts longer, or simply stop refilling their prescriptions altogether.

NEHI research indicates that patients who do not take their medication as prescribed cost the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $290 billion in avoidable medical spending every year.

Studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association report that when patient copayments increase, the use of prescribed medicines decreases. The Journal of Oncology Practice found that cancer patients with copays greater than $500 were four times more likely to abandon their medications than those who paid $100 or less. NEHI also reports that mortality rates among diabetes and heart disease patients who did not adhere to their medications were double those who took them as prescribed.

To help expand access to high-quality, cost-effective care for all California citizens, the California Academy of Physician Assistants (CAPA) has partnered with NeedyMeds, a national non-profit organization, to launch a prescription drug discount card that will help Californians lower the costs of their medications and other health care services. The discount card is free and can be used by all California families to save up to 80% off the cost of prescription medications.

Part of CAPA’s core mission is to expand access to high-quality and cost-effective care for all Californians. The CAPA drug discount card will help reduce out-of-pocket costs for California consumers, help patients stay healthy, and reduce long-term health costs for California families.

Anyone can use the card. The CAPA drug discount card is free and open to all Californians.There are no income, insurance or residency requirements, and no fees or registration process is needed to use the card. One card can be shared with friends and family members, or patients can print their own from the CAPA website. The drug discount card is accepted at over 60,000 pharmacies nationwide, including Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and other regional chains and local stores.

Patients cannot combine the card with insurance. The card can, however, be used instead of insurance if the insurance has no drug coverage, there is a high deductible, there is a low medicine cap that has been met, there is a high copay and the card offers a better price, of if a consumer is in the Medicare Part d “donut hole.”

To use the CAPA drug discount card, a California consumer simply presents the discount card to his or her pharmacist along with the desired prescription, at which point the pharmacist will tell the consumer how much can be saved using the card.

At a time when all California families are trying to stretch their budget dollars, every little bit helps. The CAPA drug discount card will help keep costs manageable while also helping to ensure that Californians stay on their doctor-prescribed treatment regimes. CAPA hopes that all Californians, but particularly thosefrom vulnerable or low-income communities, will use the discount card to help afford treatment and stay healthy.

For more information about the CAPA Prescription Drug Discount Card, or to download a copy of the card, please visit:

Eric Glassman is President of the California Academy of Physician Assistants (CAPA.)

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