New data from a study in the latest issue of the American Journal of Public Health is highlighting the impact that patient access to food assistance can have on medication adherence. For the study, IMPAQ Health researchers examined rates of cost-related nonadherence on patients enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program compared with eligible nonparticipants.
Among patients receiving SNAP benefits, cost-related nonadherence was found to be 4.8 percentage points less likely that those who didn’t receive benefits. Researchers noted that the impact of SNAP on adherence lapses related to cost was even more pronounced among older recipients who were food insecure.
“The high cost of prescription medication can lead to tradeoffs between medication and other necessities, such as food or utilities,” study lead author and co-principal investigator Mithuna Srinivasan said. “This, in turn, can manifest as cost-related nonadherence, including such behaviors as skipping or stopping medications due to cost. While SNAP's primary goal is to improve access to food, we wanted to test whether the program might help older adults better afford their prescription medications, conceivably by reducing out-of-pocket expenditures on food.”
Currently, between 40% and 45% of eligible low-income adults participate in SNAP. Researchers added that potential stigma around SNAP could be mitigated by reframing it as a healthy subsidy program. The study also notes that that payers and health systems could consider screening patients for food insecurity, offering referrals to organizations offering enrollment assistance for SNAP and other programs. It also suggests that payers consider reimbursing health systems for food security screenings and referrals.
However, as much as SNAP helped, it can’t eliminate nonadherence related to cost entirely.
“More efforts are needed to overcome the financial barriers to medication adherence than SNAP can address on its own,” co-principal investigator Jennifer Pooler said.