Medicaid prescription drug policies and medication access and continuity: Findings from ten states

Joyce C. West, Joshua E. Wilk, Donald S. Rae, Irvin S. Muszynski, Maritza Rubio Stipec, Carol L. Alter, Karen E. Sanders, Stephen Crystal, Darrel A. Regier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Objectives: The aims of this study were to compare medication access problems among psychiatric patients in ten state Medicaid programs, assess adverse events associated with medication access problems, and determine whether prescription drug utilization management is associated with access problems and adverse events. Methods: Psychiatrists from the American Medical Association's Masterfile were randomly selected (N=4,866). Sixty-two percent responded; 32% treated Medicaid patients and were randomly assigned a start day and time to report on two Medicaid patients (N=1,625 patients). Results: A medication access problem in the past year was reported for a mean±SE of 48.3%±2.0% of the patients, with a 37.6% absolute difference between states with the lowest and highest rates (p<.001). The most common access problems were not being able to access clinically indicated medication refills or new prescriptions because Medicaid would not cover or approve them (34.0%±1.9%), prescribing a medication not clinically preferred because clinically indicated or preferred medications were not covered or approved (29.4%±1.8%), and discontinuing medications as a result of prescription drug coverage or management issues (25.8%±1.6%). With patient case mix adjusted to control for sociodemographic and clinical confounders, patients with medication access problems had 3.6 times greater likelihood of adverse events (p<.001), including emergency visits, hospitalizations, homelessness, suicidal ideation or behavior, or incarceration. Also, all prescription drug management features were significantly associated with increased medication access problems and adverse events (p<.001). States with more access problems had significantly higher adverse event rates (p<.001). Conclusions: These associations indicate that more effective Medicaid prescription drug management and financing practices are needed to promote medication continuity and improve treatment outcomes. (Psychiatric Services 60:601-610, 2009).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-610
Number of pages10
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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