23 April 2013

Are Your Employees Taking Their Drugs?

By Elizabeth Borton

A study released last week reported 13% of participants under age 64 did not take their medication as prescribed in order to reduce costs. The study, released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, was based on 2011 data from the National Health Interview Survey. Participants indicated they spread out their prescriptions by skipping doses or consuming less than the prescribed amount.

On one hand, I can understand why folks may feel the need to take these steps. Many employers are shifting to high deductible plans which require employees to pay the full cost of prescriptions until they meet their deductible — and full retail costs can be a shocker. On the other hand, reducing or eliminating medications can be very dangerous, especially in the case of chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart conditions.

As part of your ongoing benefits education efforts, I encourage you to address this issue. Use the various communication vehicles at your disposal to remind employees to take their medications consistently and provide tips on how they can control their costs. For example:

  • If your prescription plan offers “free” medications, you might want to focus on some of the most commonly prescribed and then provide a link to the full formulary.
  • Highlight the value of generic drugs over brand name. Many retailers offer generics at very reasonable costs.
  • Point out that many drug manufacturers offer discounts, which are readily available over the web.
  • Remind employees that certain women’s contraceptives are covered in full due to health care reform.

Encouraging employees to take their drugs is important not only to their health, but to your bottom line as well. After all, a healthy population means lower claims and health costs as well as a more engaged and productive workforce.