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New Report: 36% of Patients Sacrifice Medications to Afford Basic Needs

January 26, 2021

News Provided by CoverMyMeds

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 26, 2021 – The impact from the COVID-19 pandemic caused tens of millions of Americans to lose their jobs, health insurance and, for some, access to their medications. [1] New research released today by CoverMyMeds found that 65 percent of patients were financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic [2] and 36 percent sacrificed their treatments or medications to pay for bills and basic needs. [2] Others have done the inverse: 43 percent have had to forgo paying for essential items and bills to afford needed medications, [2] while 41 percent have skipped or modified medication doses to stretch out prescriptions. [2]

“I don’t know how people can afford to be sick and still live their lives,” said Patricia F., a patient featured in the 2021 Medication Access Report who shared her experience managing multiple sclerosis. “I take it one day at a time and hope I’m not going to find out when it’s too late that I really should have been on medication.”

The 2021 Medication Access Report also highlights technology designed to help inform medication conversations with patients, support prescribing decisions, and empower patients and caregivers to become part of their own care team, including:

Prescription Price Transparency

  • Sixty-two percent of patients ask their provider about medication price and affordability options.[2] Equipping providers and care team members with tools that show prescription cost, remaining deductible, formulary alternatives, cash price and cost savings programs at the point of prescribing can help bolster affordability conversations with patients.
  • When a prescription cost more than expected, 43 percent of patients in 2020 said they checked a pharmacy comparison app to find a better price, up from 28 percent in 2019.[2], [3]

Tech-Enabled Patient Support Services

  • Specialty therapies are often the hardest to access for patients, usually due to process complexity and affordability challenges. Nearly half of providers surveyed indicated they changed how they approach specialty patient appointments due to COVID-19 while nearly one in five providers saw a decrease in patient therapy compliance. [4]
  • Through continued development of electronic patient support services, available at the point of prescribing for prescribers and their staff, more patients can experience end-to-end support to access specialty medications. In some cases, such programs have contributed to a 34 percent reduction in time to therapy. [5]

Electronic Prior Authorization

  • Due to manual prior authorization management, over one third of providers reported having less time for face-to-face interaction with patients—during which meaningful conversations about affordability, access or social circumstances could occur. [4]
  • Adoption of a robust electronic prior authorization solution can help reduce manual processes and improve patient outcomes. In fact, 62 percent of prior authorization requests submitted electronically receive a determination within two hours, and 43 percent receive a determination automatically. [6]

“Patients need reliable paths to medication access, and they shouldn’t have to choose between basic needs to access and afford their medications,” said Miranda Gill MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Senior Director, Provider Services and Operations at CoverMyMeds. “Encouraging patients to proactively participate in their care plan has shown to help improve outcomes. By utilizing reliable technology to view cost, quality and convenience options, the patient and provider can collaborate to make the best treatment decision for the patient.”

The 2021 Medication Access Report uses industry research, patient interviews and new survey data from patients, pharmacists and providers to investigate medication access barriers and how we can overcome them as an industry, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report is published by CoverMyMeds, part of McKesson’s Prescription Technology Solutions, with an advisory board of leaders from Albertsons, California Chronic Care Coalition, Cerner Corporation, Community Health Network, Horizon Government Affairs, Humana, National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, National Patient Advocate Foundation, OptumRx, Orsini Healthcare, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, PioneerRx and Point of Care Partners.

To view the full 2021 Medication Access Report, click here.


  1.  Zipperer, Ben, and Josh Bivens. “9.2 Million Workers Likely Lost Their Employer-Provided Health Insurance in the Past Four Weeks.” Economic Policy Institute, 16 Apr. 2020
  2.  CoverMyMeds Patient Survey, 2020
  3.  CoverMyMeds Patient Survey, 2019
  4.  CoverMyMeds Provider Survey, 2020
  5.  CoverMyMeds data on file, 2020
  6.  CoverMyMeds data on file, 2018