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Lowering drug co-pays may help diabetics stay healthier

Type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions can be the most costly diseases to care for. However, a new study from a team of Florida researchers has found that lowering insurance copayments could result in lower costs for everyone.

While the findings, which were published in the journal Health Affairs, may seem counterintuitive, the researchers said that they make sense when the numbers are broken down. By lowering out-of-pocket expenses, the researchers found that individuals were more likely to take advantage of services that keep them healthy rather than only seeking care once they have become

sick.

For the study, investigators from the Florida Health Care Coalition tested various methods of managing diabetes at one large Orlando-based company that had 3,752 diabetic employees. One group of employees were assigned to a typical health plan that covered some but not all of their prescription drugs. Another group was allowed to purchase their medications at the cost of generic drugs.

After a three-year study period, researchers found that participants who had lower co-pays were more likely to stay on their medication and less likely to be hospitalized. The arrangement also worked out for the employer. For every dollar it spent subsidizing employee medications, it was able to save $1.33 in overall costs.

Becky Cherney, one of the researchers, told the Los Angeles Times that the findings provide proof that keeping people with type 2 diabetes healthy is a better investment than waiting for them to become sick.

"Twenty percent of people have chronic diseases, but they use 80 percent of health-care dollars," she told the news source. "But by increasing co-pays, we're creating barriers for people with chronic diseases."

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