Quinn Unveils Plan To Eliminate Prescription Co-Pays For Chronic Diseases To Reduce Rx Costs And Make Vital Medications More Affordable For New Yorkers

Christine Quinn today laid out her proposal to help families afford critical medication and reduce expensive treatments and interventions by eliminating co-pays for prescription drugs that treat chronic disease. Quinn’s proposal provides financial relief to families struggling with the cost of treating diseases and will prevent serious, sometimes life-threatening complications associated with failing to maintain medication. The plan also helps reduce overall healthcare costs by making sure that New Yorkers have access to and take medications that keep chronic illness from causing more serious health problems.

Chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension are easily controlled with an appropriate medication regiment. However, families struggling to make ends meet can be faced with the difficult decision of reducing or eliminating their prescriptions in order to save money.

At the same time, the cost of treating complications associated with these diseases is placing increased burdens on the health system. A study in the American Journal of Managed Care found that insurance companies pay almost twice as much in healthcare costs for diabetes patients who seldom take their medication compared with those who take their pills regularly. In that study, when patients paid the greatest amount out-of-pocket for prescriptions, insurers paid more than $8,000 in overall health care costs. By contrast, when co-pays were eliminated, the insurer paid $700, to cover the prescription costs, but overall health care costs dropped to less than $4,000.

To address both of these issues, Quinn proposed eliminating co-pays, making it easier for families to afford and maintain their prescription dosage, avoiding fewer complications, emergency room visits and expensive treatments.

Quinn was joined by New York Hotel Trades Council’s (HTC) Employee Benefits Fund CEO Dr. Richard Greenspan; following HTC’s implementation of a prescription waiver for asthma drugs, asthma claims for enrolled patients decreased 41.6 percent from 2008 - 2010.  The success of HTC’s program highlights the potential benefit for both patients and medical providers.

In addition to HTC, a number of other employers have seen success after eliminating or reducing prescription co-pays. Marriott International, Procter & Gamble, Eastman Chemical and Pitney Bowes have all reduced or eliminated co-pays for medications treating conditions including heart disease, osteoporosis, asthma and more. Pitney Bowes currently spends 19 percent less annually for each asthma patient than it did six years ago, before it eliminated co-pays.   

Quinn’s initiative would identify an insurance provider to offer a pilot program that would eliminate prescription co-pays for specific chronic diseases. Following the results of the pilot, and the expected savings to the insurance provider, the program would then be expanded more widely to other providers and their members.