Study: Higher co-pays cut into medications for kids with asthma

Children with asthma don't always get enough of their medications, say findings of a University of Minnesota study.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that families with higher co-pays for their children's asthma medications don't fill as many prescriptions as recommended.

Researchers wanted to know how well children with private health insurance were managing their asthma. They looked at nearly 9,000 children whose insurance policies varied in terms of how much their families had to pay out-of-pocket for medications.

The study found that the cost of the asthma medication had no impact on children younger than five years. But among older children and teenagers, the study found higher co-pays were associated with fewer prescriptions filled and higher hospitalization rates.

"We know from many studies that insurance obviously facilitates access to care, and that includes prescription drugs. However, we know very little about the privately insured children," University of Minnesota professor Pinar Karaca-Mandic, who led the study. "We wanted to see whether privately insured children are also having trouble getting their asthma-control medications in this case."

Karaca-Mandic said it would be worthwhile to conduct similar studies on other diseases affecting children.

"The message is that even the privately insured children are having trouble accessing their medications due to high out-of-pocket costs," Karaca-Mandic said. "That means higher rates of asthma-related hospitalizations for these children."

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