More than 10% of stroke patients still can't afford meds under ACA

Though federal initiatives to expand health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have been successful, more than one in 10 stroke survivors are still unable to afford their medication, experts reported at last week’s International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

The ACA gave more U.S. citizens the option to purchase health insurance, in addition to expanding state eligibility requirements for Medicaid, study author Deborah A. Levine, MD, said in an American Heart Association news release, but it still wasn’t enough. Despite an increase in Medicaid coverage from 24 percent in 2010 to 31 percent in 2015, a significant portion of patients still reported an inability to pay for their doctor-recommended drugs.

Levine and her colleagues used data from the National Health Interview Survey to study the effect of expanded medical coverage on stroke patients of differing age groups. They found that while, by 2015, older stroke survivors were more likely to afford their meds—8 percent of the study population—the half-decade between 2010 and 2015 didn’t yield the same results in a younger demographic.

The percentage of young stroke patients between 45 and 65 years old who were uninsured fell 53 percent during the study period, Levine et al. reported, from 15 percent to 7 percent. Still, in 2015, 21 percent of those patients were still reporting that cost was a significant barrier to accessing medications.

“Among [younger] stroke survivors, insurance coverage, namely Medicaid, has increased substantially, while cost-related nonadherence (CRN) to medication has remained stable,” Levine and co-authors wrote in their study, published in Stroke. “Federal programs to improve insurance availability and access to care may not be reducing CRN as intended, and a resulting large number of stroke survivors are at risk for subsequent events.”