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The Effect of Changes in Cost Sharing on the Consumption of Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medicines in Catalonia

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Article number2562
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>4/03/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number2562
Number of pages21
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Many universal health care systems have increased the share of the price of medicines paid by the patient to reduce the cost pressure faced after the Great Recession. This paper assesses the impact of cost-sharing changes on the propensity to consume prescription and over-the-counter medicines in Catalonia, a Spanish autonomous community, affected by three new cost-sharing policies
implemented in 2012. We applied a quasi-experimental difference-in-difference method using data from 2010 to 2014. These reforms were heterogeneous across different groups of individuals, so we define three intervention groups: (i) middle-income working population—co-insurance rate changed from 40% to 50%; (ii) low/middle-income pensioners—from free full coverage to 10%
co-insurance rate; (iii) unemployed individuals without benefits—from 40% co-insurance rate to free full coverage. Our control group was the low-income working population whose co-insurance rate remained unchanged. We estimated the effects on the overall population as well as on the group with long-term care needs. We evaluated the effect of these changes on the propensity to consume
prescription or over-the-counter medicines, and explored the heterogeneity effects across seven therapeutic groups of prescription medicines. Our findings showed that, on average, these changes did not significantly change the propensity to consume prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
Nonetheless, we observed that the propensity to consume prescription medicines for mental disorders significantly increased among unemployed without benefits, while the consumption of prescribed mental disorders medicines for low/middle-income pensioners with long-term care needs decreased after becoming no longer free. We conclude that the propensity to consume medicines was not
affected by the new cost-sharing policies, except for mental disorders. However, our results do not preclude potential changes in the quantity of medicines individuals consume.