Americans' Access to Prescription Drugs Stabilizes, 2007-2010

Despite a large increase in the numbers of Americans without health insurance and the financial pressures of a weakened economy, the proportion of Americans who reported problems affording their prescription drugs remained level from 2007—2010, with more than one in eight going without a prescribed drug in 2010. This finding comes from the Center for Studying Health System Change’s (HSC) 2010 Health Tracking Household Survey, a nationally representative survey funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

While remaining stable overall, access to prescription drugs appeared to improve for working-age, uninsured people—likely reflecting a decline in visits to health care providers. As a result of fewer visits, they were less likely to have medications prescribed.

Other survey findings include:

  • Those without health insurance, those with low incomes, people in fair or poor health, and those with multiple chronic conditions continued to face the most unmet prescription drug needs.
  • The number and percentage of Americans reporting unmet prescription needs because of costs was significantly higher in 2010 compared to 2003 (13% versus 10%), reflecting increased access problems for children and working-age adults (aged 19-64) between 2003 and 2007.
  • Uninsured people continued to have the most problems affording prescription drugs. Overall, 27.4 percent of uninsured people reported prescription drug access problems in 2010, nearly three times the rate for those with health insurance.
  • Uninsured people with multiple chronic conditions were the most vulnerable. Sixty-nine percent reported an unmet prescription need because of cost in 2010.
  • In 2010, people with incomes below 200 percent of poverty—$44,100 for a family of four—were 3.4 times more likely to report drug access problems as those earning 400 percent of poverty or more—19.3 percent versus 5.7 percent.