Benefit Plan Design and Prescription Drug Utilization Among Asthmatics: Do Patient Copayments Matter?

William H. Crown, Ernst R. Berndt, Onur Baser, Stan N. Finkelstein, Whitney P. Witt

NBER Working Paper No. 10062
Issued in November 2003
NBER Program(s):Economics of Aging, Health Economics, Public Economics

Objective: The ratio of controller to reliever medication use has been proposed as a measure of treatment quality for asthma patients. In this study we examine the effects of plan level mean out-of-pocket asthma medication patient copayments and other features of benefit plan design on the use of controller medications alone, controller and reliever medications (combination therapy), and reliever medications alone. Methods: 1995-2000 MarketScan claims data were used to construct plan-level out-of-pocket copayment and physician/practice prescriber preference variables for asthma medications. Separate multinomial logit models were estimated for patients in fee-for-service (FFS) and non-FFS plans relating benefit plan design features, physician/practice prescribing preferences, patient demographics, patient comorbidities and county-level income variables to patient-level asthma treatment patterns. Results: We find that the controller reliever ratio rose steadily over 1995-2000, along with out-of-pocket payments for asthma medications, which rose more for controllers than for relievers. However, after controlling for other variables, plan level mean out-of-pocket copayments were not found to have a statistically significant influence upon patient-level asthma treatment patterns. On the other hand, physician practice prescribing patterns strongly influenced patient level treatment patterns. Conclusions: There is no strong statistical evidence that higher levels of out-of-pocket copayments for prescription drugs influence asthma treatment patterns. However, physician/practice prescribing preferences influence patient treatment.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10062


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