While often considered nominal, copays can have a dramatic effect on the patients who have to pay them. In fact, a recent study demonstrated that a minuscule copay increase of $10.40 on prescription drugs was directly tied to a monthly mortality jump of almost 33%.
The severity of this correlation may come as a surprise or even seem exaggerated, but the numbers tell only part of the story. Perhaps even more surprising than the alarming jump in mortality is the fact that little to no discrepancy was noted between low-income and high-income patients.
Despite commonsense implying that the same copay increase would disproportionately affect low-income patients as it would be an increase of higher percentage relative to their resources, the study actually found that even wealthier patients were discouraged from filling prescriptions when copays went up.
This strange and confusing finding can be attributed to a fickle and hard to quantify factor—human decision-making. It may not seem logical, but healthcare is a challenging topic for many patients, regardless of income.
The structure of medication and pharmacy can only add to the difficulty of said decisions. From being caught off-guard when faced with pricing to experiencing confusion when confronted by the availability of name brand or generic drugs, for example, the process of filling medications can be overwhelming to patients.
Another unfortunate consequence of increased copays uncovered by this study was that high-risk patients were heavily impacted. Some would even go without lifesaving medications when faced with a price hike.
This particular discovery shines a light on one of the common cost-sharing structures that is in place—all patients are essentially treated the same regardless of risk. What this means is that someone at high risk of heart attack is likely to experience the same cost structure when filling their prescription as someone who is at little to no risk.
There are many questions raised as a result of this study and its findings, many of which focus on what can be done to reduce the tragic impact of increasing copays. It will be interesting to see what new research emerges regarding this topic and the potential solutions proposed to mitigate the shocking rise in risk.
There are new technology-based pharmacies like Liton Rx are offering free basic medications and free same-day delivery. This will help to reduce the overall cost of co-pay and can improve of healthcare of community in a significant way.